Review Summary: an average, forgettable debut by a band that would later become a trailblazing, daring collective of musicians
The debut album of a band can be an interesting thing. It can be an amazing, cohesive statement that garners lots of acclaim and praise, skyrocketing a band to instant success (think Strokes), It can be a modest collection of songs that show the potential of a young band (think U2), or, it can be a complete shock; an album with a sound far removed from what the band would do later, and are usually despised by all but hard-core fans. This is exactly what Sonic Flower Groove is.
The Primal's are a band who rose to fame by fusing dance music and rock, but this is eons away from dance - rock , as it is a collection of dreamy folk- rock. Like any other young band, Primal Scream wear their influences on their sleeves here. the main influence seems to be the folk-rock of The Byrds. In fact, this collection bears so much influence from the Byrd that one critic stated it is "a pristine Xerox of Turn! Turn! Turn! ", And sadly, that seems to be the truth.
The area this is felt most is with the guitar tone of lead guitarist Jim Beattie, whose tone is a dead-ringer for Roger McGuinn's chiming, psych-folk lead guitar, and this drains many of the songs here of potential originality. The other gripe is simply that all of Beattie's riffs sound alike. The riff from "leaves" is almost identical to the riff from "Love you", and the already mentioned use of one tone doesn't help this much.
Beattie's guitar can't take all the blame for the tedious nature of this album though. Most of these songs sound exactly the same, thanks to the arrangements, which are always guitar, drums, (barely audible) Bass, and Vox. This makes many of the songs seem indistingishable from one another, as the drums play bland pop-rock rhythms, the bass either plays simple stream of quarter notes or mimics the guitar part, and the aforementioned lack of original riffs is incredibly evident.
The last point of contention is the only one that The Scream would carry over into their future incarnations, and that is the voice of singer Bobby Gillespie. Gillespie's lyrics have always been the band's Achilles heel, are a tepid mess, each song using metaphors of flowers and sunlight to drive home boring, love songs. from what other rock singer would you get a line as plainly dumb as "I don't want to own you/I just want to be your friend/The best one that you've ever had/ it's true, I can't pretend"? This made even more annoying by the fact that Gillespie's voice lacks range and sings all of these songs in a polite, amazingly boring voice.
Although this album has vast amount of dull songs , it does have some strong songs, mainly opener gentle Tuesday, which boasts an infectious chorus and catchy main riff. Other tracks of note are silent spring, where Beattie's lead lines have a distorted, razor-wire quality that lends the song some much needed character. The final highlight is the subdued, droning Love you, which accomplishes a breathtaking effect through the layers of chiming guitar and booming tom hits, showing the influence of the Jesus and Mary Chain, the band that Gillespie used to drum for.
Listening to Love you , you get a sense that this is the sound they were trying to get. An album of songs like Love You would be infinitely more interesting than this, which is an average, forgettable debut by a band that would later become a trailblazing, daring collective of musicians. It's easy to see why Primal Scream changed sounds after this underwhelming debut.