First in a new series where your host will listen to all records of a particular band/artist and give a definite review record by record (and maybe help those who want to begin to choose the right record). The rules are simple: listen back in chronological order to all studio albums from a particular artist/band with fresh years and write down a short comment with the top three tracks and a note out of ten.
Please refer to this link for general comments on Primal Scream. Let’s just remember that their leader Bobby Gillespie had been the drummer of The Jesus and Mary Chain before forming Primal Scream.
Velocity Girl (1986) from C86 Compilation: Ok, an exception to the rules to begin with… C86 was a mythical tape compilation done by New Musical Express with all new bands emerging in the UK at that time. Primal Scream’s track was the first one and was what a perfect song! 1mn22s of jangle guitars and this typical not very assured voice from Bobby Gillespie bringing a natural charm to it.
Sonic Flower Groove (1987): this is a hidden gem and one of the best debut I know. This record has perfectly aged and was very much inspired by the US psychedelic sound of bands from the late 60’s with a great British feel. Top songs : “Gentle Tuesday”, “Silent Spring” and “We Go Down Slowly Rising”. (8.5/10)
Primal Scream (1989): the “a bit” embarrassing 2nd LP when hair got long and curly and when leather trousers appeared… Pretty much different from the 1st LP and much more MC5-oriented, this expected pure rock’n’roll sound just works out on a few tracks. This is probably not a LP we would listen to today if not for Primal Scream but Andrew Weatherall loved one song and the rest was history (cf. below). Top songs : “Ivy Ivy Ivy”, “I’m Losing More Than I’ll Ever Have” and “Gimme Gimme Teenage Head”. (6/10)
Screamadelica (1991): One of the most popular British albums ever and a very strong reminder of an era called Madchester where rock music finally met dance music (and drugs…). The song mentioned above was Loaded, which became a fantastic dance anthem mixing a new kind of crossover music sampled with Peter Fonda’s words from the movie “The Wild Angels“. Loaded paved the way for a succession of amazing singles that the band managed to do between parties and e-pills recovery. For the album, they requested the help of Jimmy Miller, the legendary early 70’s Rolling Stones engineer and this created a LP whose success went beyond the band’s craziest dreams. If you were to own one Primal Scream record, it has to be Screamadelica. Its twin 4-track “Dixie Narco E.P.” is also recommended and included in recent reissue. Top songs : “Movin’ On Up”, “Don’t Fight It, Feel It” and “Loaded”. (9.5/10)
Give Out But Don’t Give Up (1994): …and back to a retro-Stones sound again. Once more, the band went back consciously or not to a pure ballad and rock sound that you could here from any classic middle of the road American band. This does not mean the record does not have its moments but one is faced with a clear lack of originality. As for their second LP, Primal Scream would never have been more than a regular band with this record and would not have been honoured to be in this blog! Top songs : “Jailbird”, “Rocks” and “Sad And Blue”. (6.5/10)
Vanishing Point (1997): … and back to excellence and originality again. How weird this tendency to go from the interesting sounding to the really great. Lead by the fantastic single “Kowalski”, “Vanishing Point” takes its name from a 1971 road movie of the same name. The arrival of former Stones Roses bassist Mani brings a new sound for sure but one is mainly impressed overall by Bobbie Gillespie’s voice (generally not his forte) and the kind of laid-back feeling of the album, where Primal mix what they do best, i.e. rock’n’roll with a dance feeling. Probably my favorite album. Please note as well that there exists a twin LP with dub remixes called “Echo Dek” which I do not know. Top songs : “Get Duffy”, “Kowalski” and “Star”. (9/10)
XTRMNTR (2000): …or Exterminator for those who like to read all letters. A quite arid record, very well reviewed by critics and fans at the time. This album is famous as well for being the last one that went out on the Creation label, home of many great bands and artists such as My Bloody Valentine, Teenage Fanclub or Oasis. Very cold record, almost industrial-sounding for a few tracks but at least Primal Scream did not get back to their usual rock’n’roll comfort zone. Top songs : “Exterminator”, “Swastika Eyes” and “MBV Arkestra”. (8/10)
Evil Heat (2002): Maybe for the first time in their discography Primal Scream succeeded in getting a sense of continuity. This record kept on the electro tendency of “XTRMNTR” but in a more skeletal way and always with the huge presence of Mani’s bass, mixing as well a few pure rock’n’roll tracks and ballads. One of the peak of the LP being a duet cover of “Some Velvet Morning” between Bobbie and Kate Moss! Top songs : “Autobahn 66”, “City” and “Some Velvet Morning”. (7.5/10)
Riot City Blues (2006): four years is a long time to wait for a band’ new album especially when you are recording your eighth studio LP. This is the overall feeling about this solid rock record where songs are well-built and where there are nice guests (the great Warren Ellis from Dirty Three/Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds fame for instance) but on which nothing is really outstanding. Top songs : “Nitty Gritty”, “Little Death” and “Hell’s Coming Down”. (6/10)
Beautiful Future (2008): one was afraid of one record too many but Primal Scream came two years after “Riot Blues” with a much fresher-sounding LP, mixing all the styles they are good at, from the standard Stonesy sounding tracks to the ballad ones with dancey-robotik stuff in between. A great guest star as well this time with Josh Homme from Queens of the Stone Age. A nice and very enjoyable 9th (!) LP for Primal Scream. Top songs : “Beautiful Future”, “The Glory Of Love” and “I Love to Hurt (You Love to Be Hurt)”. (7/10)
Verdict: a true innovative and rewarding band, Primal Scream have constantly tried new sounds and directions, sometimes going a bit nowhere but most of the times with amazing artistic success. “Screamadelica” is a pure classic album in rock’n’roll short story and even if their top period is probably behind them, Gillespie, Mani, Duffy and co have still lots to offer.
Please click on this link for more details on Primal Scream’s discography and enjoy!
Stop press : this is 2013 and there is a new Primal Scream LP !
More Light (2013): Re-energized by the Screamadelica Tour, Bobby Gillespie promised us that Primal Scream present would be as good as their past and he was right. This new album is one of the best of their career and one can find again the punch and style found in their former classic LP’s. Lyrics are more than ever politicised and relevant and this album will for sure end up in many “best of the year” critics’ polls. Top songs : “2013”, “Culturecide” and “It’s allright, it’s ok”. (8/10)
Stop press #2: another Primal Scream LP in 2016!
Chaosmosis (2016): A new very pleasant LP from the Scream…but is it one too many? It sounds the band had the ambition to do a kind of summary of all the great sounds and songs they have been mastering throughout their career. So it means you will have the Madchester song, the gospel one, the rebellious one, the female-male sort of Nancy Sinatra/Lee Hazelwood one, etc… Not a bad thing per see but it does not really gel and remains a collection of nice but not memorable songs, meaning not a great album. Top songs : “Trippin’ on your love”, “I Can Change” and “Golden Rope”. (6/10)