Review Summary: For Tomorrow: A Guide to Contemporary British Music, 1988-2013 (Part 5)
Primal Scream had been plunking about since 1982, but had only released a few recordings when lead singer Bobby Gillespie quit his position as drummer for Scottish noise-broods The Jesus & Mary Chain to front Primal Scream full time. Gillespie’s lunkhead simple floor tom-snare set up lent Psychocandy
a unique and vital underpinning, but the band needed a full time drummer and, in Febuary 1986, demanded Gilllespie either learn proper drums or leave. Primal Scream was already signed to Alan McGee’s Creation Records and proceeded to spend 1986 flipping through band members, producers, record labels, and piles of money only to release the lame-name, lamer music album Sonic Flower Groove
in 1987. The albums failure (Stalled at 62 on the charts) led to more member flip floppery, a switch from 60s jangle to rock ‘n’ roll and another album, 1989’s Primal Scream
. Once again, poor reviews, confusion, an even bigger bomb on the charts.
Andrew Weatherall had been publishing and writing for his own fanzine Boys Own when a chance meeting with house musician Danny Rampling led to an offer to DJ at his own club night. Weatherall took to DJ’ing rapidly, rubbing elbows with movers and shakers like Paul Oakenfold and Nicky Holloway. At the time, these future superstars were bumming through clubs, “I’m lucky because there wasn’t a DJ culture when I started, so it wasn’t so competitive,” Weatherall told EndClub in 2005, “I dint have to scramble like a lot of DJs have to nowadays.” With a DJ scene still forming, Weatherall began helming remixes of New Order and Happy Mondays tracks.
The band had begun attending club nights throughout 1989 when they met Andrew Weatherall at London’s Shoom club and struck up a friendship. Andrew Innes, Primal Scream’s rhythm guitarist, gave him a tape of Primal Scream
’s only worthwhile cut, “I’m Losing More Than I’ll Ever Have”.
If this encounter had never happened its highly unlikely I would be writing about Primal Scream today.
”We wanna be free to do what we wanna do/…And we wanna get loaded.”
Weatherall fashioned a few bars of “I’m Losing More Than I’ll Ever Have” with a beat lifted from an Italian bootleg of Edie Brickell’s “What I Am” and called his remix “Loaded”. It peaked at number 16 on the singles chart.
Gillespie heard his bands future in “Loaded”, drafted Weatherall and another DJ, Terry Farley, for production, and proceeded to create 1991’s Screamadelica
, the peak of England’s late 80s/Early 90s club rush.
”I was blind/Now I can see.”
Opener “Movin’ On Up” finds Gillespie singing like he’s seen the light. “You made a believer/Out of me”. A gospel choir belts in the background, “My light shines on!” But the music he’s singing over is Rolling Stone’s inspired rock ‘n’ roll. Admittedly, crisper than anything Primal Scream had done before but where is the club music?
“Movin’ On Up” stands as one of the great pump fakes of the 90s. As soon as it fades out the album takes a nosedive into the hypnotic “Slip Inside This House” and everything changes. With no attempt at a transition or fade, “Slip Inside This House” plunges right into a thick jungle of break beats and samples and forces you to find your own footing. Gillespie, who sang so clearly before, is now slithering around behind a sitar. “Don’t Fight It, Feel It” passes the microphone to Denise Johnson who turns in a classic 90s diva performance over a whistling synth riff and shimmying keyboards.
All this spills into “Higher Than the Sun”, a song you do not listen to so much as you enter it.
It’s like a slow, psychedelic gondola ride through some Egyptian club paradise. “Hallucinogens can open me, or untie me” slowly unspools Gillespie, “I drift in inner space, free of time.” His pupils’ dilate. The drums enter quietly, careful as to not spoil the hypnotism, as gentle as the introduction is, it feels seismic. “Higher than the sun,” the tablet has fully dissolved and you’re peaking now, “Higher than the sun
Suddenly, everything goes dark. A harsh siren slices the mix; the drums have become a crashing break beat and the bass comes roaring out from under the mix. It’s terrifying and thrilling in equal measure, like the first big drop on a roller coaster.
Elsewhere, album highlight “Come Together”s 8 minutes of bliss could legalize ecstasy on the strength of its vocal melody alone, “I’m Comin’ Down”s hallowed out sample-scape makes the morning after sound romantic instead of painful and “Shine Like Stars” sees the album to a floaty conclusion.
was a massive success for Primal Scream, charting at number 8 and turning the band into festival headlining stars. But by 1991 acid house was on the wane and Primal Scream, realizing this, spent the rest of the decade trying out more traditional rock and alternative styles with varying degrees of success. Screamadelica
remains the definitive document of the acid house wave but Primal Scream wouldn’t make another definitive album for almost another decade.
Next: “What does it take to turn you on?”