One of the few sad things about The Stone Roses getting back together, which has been almost overlooked, is the departure of Mani from Primal Scream.
Before he joined them, by their own admission, Bobby Gillespie’s gang were in transit – certainly as a live band. Mani completely and utterly reinvigorated them, and this continued from ‘Kowalski’’s deafening bottom end in 1997, through to the release of ‘XTRMNTR’ and beyond.
At the turn of the century, with the further assistance of Kevin Shields on third guitar, Primal Scream became the best live band on the planet by a quite gigantic distance. Listen below to the hurricane that is ‘Accelerator’ in 2002.
From that line up, Robert ‘Throb’ Young has left, and Shields’ arrangement was only ever temporary, but the departure of the Stone Roses’ former-now-current bass player will affect them more than both of those two put together. Of course, we needn’t worry – this is Primal Scream, and Primal Scream are and always will be masters of turning adversity into triumph. See, most famously and obviously, ‘Loaded’. They will be back, in a newer reinvented guise, quite possibly better than ever.
But for now, let us celebrate the genius teaming that was – and for a short while longer is – Mani and Primal Scream. Tonight (Oct 10), they are playing one of their last gigs together: a “fan-curated” even at the Electric in Brixton (part of the Levi’s Craft Of Music) series. Even more excitingly, the concept of the gigs is: fans are being given the opportunity to select 10 tracks from a Primal Scream shortlist. The band will also play an exclusive cover version, which will also be selected by the fans. Great, eh?
And so with that in mind, I thought I’d select ten tunes that The Scream could definitely do with revisiting. If not tonight, then… someday!
In a March 1997 interview with NME, just ahead of the release of ‘Vanishing Point’ and post-‘Give Out But Don’t Give Up’, Bobby Gillespie said: “On the B-side of our new single ‘Star’ there’s this track called ‘Jesus’. When you hear that you’ll know what was wrong with the last album. ‘Jesus’ is dark, fractured and ragged, but still kind of redemptive and that’s what the last album should’ve been like.” He’s exactly right.
Their first truly great single, from way back in 1987, and the leather trousers and spotty shirt Roger McGuinn-worshipping phase. Easily the best song on ‘Sonic Flower Groove’ and an early hint, with its strings-assisted grace, at the heights this band would hit.
3 ‘The Lord Is My Shotgun’
The follow up to ‘XTRMNTR’, ‘Evil Heat’ is a criminally underrated album, at the same time more poppy and more extreme than its predecessor. This song comes smack bang in the middle, with the original NME review calling it a “lascivious future-blues swagger on which, Kevin Shields (who produces) piles on the dissonant noise collage like an orchestral conductor.” All true. Also features Robert fucking Plant on harmonica!
Yeah, so everybody knows it should have gone on the album of the same name. Because despite being recorded in the considerably un-baggy confines of Ardent Studios in Memphis, ‘Screamadelica’ perfectly embodies what the Primals and Andrew Weatherall were trying to do around 1991. Powering in at over ten minutes and only ever released on the great Dixie Narco EP in ’92, it’s their great lost classic.
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5 ‘She Power’
Pop historians will tell you that Primal Scream’s second, self-titled album is shit, but as usual, pop historians are generalising. It’s flawed, and somewhat ill advised, but not without merit. This song, for example, is great power-pop-‘Back In The USA’ rock.
Watch them doing it live back in 1990 below (with some great posturing).
6 ‘Hell’s Comin Down’
Forgotten, never-once-played-live cut from ‘Riot City Blues’, and a gloriously upbeat mandolin-driven country stomper featuring Warren Ellis acting completely out of character with some hoedown fiddle. A personal favourite from the latter years.
7 ‘Zombie Man’
THE stupidest thing that Primal Scream have ever recorded, from ‘Beautiful Future’. Produced by Youth, this verges on hair metal at times, but mostly sound like Alice Cooper at his most stupendous. Also sounds like ®yi†everyone present in the room is having an outrageous amount of fun.
8 ‘Velocity Girl’
The tune that kickstarted C86 (it was the opening track on the tape), ‘Velocity Girl’ is the Primals at their most jangly. Gloriously effeminate, it’s one minute 22 seconds of soaring beauty, climaxing with a final, life-affirming scream of “leave me alooooone!” from Bobby, and the most infectious guitar solo of the Scream’s entire career.
9 – ‘Five Years Ahead Of My Time’
Primal Scream have never made any secret of their lust for ‘Nuggets’-garage rock, so it was no surprise when they covered this Third Bardo cult classic… apart from they turned it into a futuristic techno stomp with assistance at some point along the way from Liam Howlett. Played live a fewtimes, always amazing.
10 – ‘Pills’
On ‘XTRMNTR’ it’s great, but live – LIVE! – ‘Pills’ is an unstoppable, mesmeric beauty. Arguably the most powerful part of their live shows in the early noughties, it’s a glorious mess of samples and MC5 drumming, topped off Gillespie’s maddened, snotty vocals.
So come on then, what tunes would you like to see in a Primal Scream setlist?