Review Summary: 2013
Following the start of the new century, Primal Scream slowly started losing steam. After the successful aggro-industrial XTRMNTR
and the solid, electronic counterpart Evil Heat, the band entered a downward spiral. Releasing the limp, rock and roll throwback Riot City Blues
, along with the glossy, electro-pop Beautiful Future
, both wearing thin faster than they should have, Bobby Gillespie & Co. began to gradually fade into obscurity. In a try to relive the glory days when Screamadelica
won the world by surprise, they remastered and toured behind it once more. Meanwhile, it was clear that a rejuvenation was desperately needed and when longtime bassist Mani left to re-join The Stone Roses, it was even less likely to take place.
However, once again Primal Scream managed to reinvent themselves, delivering, for the most part, a fresh effort that is More Light
. Undoubtedly, their most interesting offering in a decade, More Light
is mainly a 70 minute run through their catalog. They twisted and turned some of their past grooves and mixed them with new elements, creating one massive, eclectic journey. There are tracks like the hazy "Hit Void" or the epic, 9-minute opener "2013" which echo XTRMNTR
through both music and message. Assisted by on and off collaborator Kevin Shields (of My Bloody Valentine's fame), the latter ended as a comprehensive protest against the recently deceased Margaret Thatcher among other issues, with lyrics like "Twenty-first century slaves, a peasant underclass[...]Thatcher’s children make the millions pay[...]How long will this *** last?". Frontman Bobby Gillespie has always had an obsession for dystopian themes, whether in extreme form or closer to reality, but he sounds legit with the right music behind him. Also, the slow burner "Elimination Blues", featuring Robert Plant on vocals, complete with screeching guitars, percussion and a gospel choir is another winning formula here. Plant previously appeared on Evil Heat
, providing harmonica on the disturbing "The Lord Is My Shotgun". Another highlight, topping the best moments of Riot City Blues
, is the groovy garage rocker "Invisible City". The cool, twangy guitars, various synthesizer tweaks, as well as a horn section, give Gillespie a perfect background for his powerless, intoxicated vocals. The result is one of Primal Scream's sweetest and catchiest jams in a long time.
Those highlights aside, the band manages to capture the listener's attention by remaining unpredictable until the last minute, adding some jazz-influenced brass sections that include the saxophone leads on the slick, lounge leaning "Goodbye Johnny" or trumpets on the abrasive "Sideman". Still, the best moments from this unpredictability are "River Of Pain" and "Relativity". The former starts as a mellow, acoustic tune with whispered vocals and a misty atmosphere, until dissolving midway into free-form orchestra-assisted psychedelia. "Relativity" follows the same formula, switching from a more urgent, electronic part to a summer-ish, idyllic coda. More Light
benefits a lot from the variety of instruments used, often stealing Gillespie's spotlight (which isn't exactly a negative aspect).
Even if the album feels like a rebirth for Primal Scream, there are some issues dragging it down. A recurring thing is the noise restraint on the heavy songs. "Hit Void", "2013" or "Sideman" among others, would have a lot more impact if the guitars had more power. Also, the album becomes stale towards the end, "Walking With The Beast" being a bland ballad with cheap lyrics like "Violence in the air/Damage everywhere/Vultures in my dreams/Waking up to screams[...]Walking with the beast/You can't get no peace". Primal Scream have never been able to create a memorable ballad and this one is not an exception. Album closer "It's Alright, It's OK" is the biggest flaw, simply because it's a rehash of Screamadelica
's "Movin' On Up" that doesn't belong on this effort. Pretty much a divisive song, some will like the resemblance to it, while others will loathe it.
Nevertheless, More Light
is a surprisingly solid set which starts a new phase in Primal Scream's expansive discography. It's diverse enough to offer thrills to anyone willing to listen, yet it would have been more efficient and less exhaustive if it had been trimmed a bit. The orchestrated jazz and psychedelic influences are aspects that successfully complement the large variety of genres the band tackles with. Too bad the guitars aren't as noisy as they were on XTRMNTR
, but this is only one point of view.