''Most bands think in black and white, we think in Technicolor'' Bobby Gillespie 1991
The music scene in 1991 was very different to the scene nowadays, where every over record is a crossover record, and the music press clamber to find the next big sound that fuses two seemingly conflicting styles. Usually just by sticking ''Nu'' in front of the style that is more predominant. Imagine if that was used to categorise this record? Nu Rock n Roll? Nu Dance? Nu Gospel? Post House? Primal Screamcore?? Me Neither.
The group knew they had found a unique and exciting sound, the records title, 'Screamadelica' best describes the sound of the record. There isn't a record quite like it, let alone another Scream record. The amazing fusion on this record between Rolling Stones inspired rock and cutting edge (for the time) dance music, and melodic Gospel elements. It really takes you on a well thought out journey, through a kaleidoscope of rhythms, melodies and textures.
This may sound like a terrible fusion of genre’s, luckily it is in good hands, with not only Primal Scream, but also influential dance music writer and DJ Andrew Weatherall a pioneer of the Madchester scene, who had already begun mixing dance with indie with the Happy Monday’s and New Order. Jah Wobble also contributed to the record with the ambient ‘Higher than the Sun (a dub symphony in two parts)’.
The record begins with rhythm guitar and piano, in a tune which is now embedded into most Britons who were alive at this time, getting heavy radio rotation and often being used for television soundtracks. The cheery pop rock n roll, pairs brilliantly, with the backing gospel vocals, with uplifting spiritual lyrics and a great danceable tune. Over the nineties, there were attempts to reproduce this same uplifting feeling, with varying degrees of success, Unfinished Sympathy by Massive Attack and M People’s abysmal career.
The next track, a dub reworking of ‘Trip inside this house’ by Psychedelic group the Thirteenth Floor Elevators, a song which ambiguously celebrates the use of narcotics, in the case of the original Acid and Marijuana, in this version, more likely Marijuana and MDMA. The dub reworking really brings the song up to date, with a steady layered drum beat with samples of a chant of “Jazz!”. The textures of the bassline colliding with Indian Sitar music and House piano loops make for an interesting dance record.
“Just what is it you want to do?...”
Now, I talk about this a lot, but drugs have a dramatic influence on music. The early nineties saw the arrival of ecstasy which came to prominence in the UK alongside trance music, raves and a wholly revised sexual revolution. No coincidence. This record has often been compared to the experience of Ecstasy, the initial high and excitement, deep feelings of love and happiness, which has a comedown, which makes your mood the complete flipside. Instead of wanting to dance, smile and make love, you become more withdrawn. This feeling translates with the transition between ‘Loaded’ and ‘Damaged’. While the soaring and uplifting horns of Loaded slip gently away, all too soon you are hearing a completely different side to Primal Scream. This is the only time on the record that the transition of different sounds doesn’t flow gently, which brings the emotion of ‘Damaged’, which is a gentle heartbreaking ballad performed mostly by Gillespie, which bears similarity to ‘I’m losing more than I’ll ever have’ which was remixed into the uplifting dance track ‘Loaded’ a reminder of how happiness can surprisingly come from sadness.
Come Together is the highlight of the record to many, and was the track picked for the Bestival 2007 compilation, Primal Scream were the headliners for the festival. “There’s no better way to end a festival like this, than with a band a great as Primal Scream” Bobby Gillespie, the eternal rock star said completely unashamed. The track builds with organs, and electronic wailing, and slowly rises, with a sample of civil rights protestor and former presidential candidate Reverend Jesse Jackson. Some people talk about fellow dance pioneers the prodigy bringing politics to dance, but then they went and spoiled that with Goering quotes and shock tactics. This is an uplifting call for unity citing the power of love and music. Certainly a very apt choice for an act headlining Bestival, which had a very diverse line up, crowd and atmosphere. This song is a beautiful vessel on which to transport a message of unity.
"...I think music is magic... magical, in the true sense of the word. Certain pieces of music make me feel strong, protected. It raises... it raises my soul. No, forget that, it protects me from bad feelings. Music protects us in such a powerful way, it makes you aware of possibilities. To a lot of people I think music's a commodity, not spiritual. it's something you put on the mantelpiece and it's there, like a set of golf clubs or an ironing board, whereas to us it's a holy thing, and none of us are even religious."
- Bobby Gillespie, NME interview 28 September 1991