A deliberately frothy take on an under-documented moment in US politics
Primal Scream, 'More Light'
Ten albums in, Bobby G and co’s urban soul and righteous anger still soundtrack present-day Britain
“Twenty-first century slaves, a peasant underclass”, goes opener ‘2013’. “Thatcher’s children make the millions pay… how long will this shit last?”. Swathed in Kevin Shields’ wormhole guitars and sizzling ska horns, it paints an incisive portrait of present-day Britain over nine minutes bristling with bile and bite. Its depraved cityscapes swarm with “deluded, excluded shackled-down hoodies” rioting for Nikes; its battlefields are piled high with dead victims of war-criminal politicians while “every generation buys the lies, just like the one before’’. “Your soul’s in chains/Your soul’s in pain” Bobby Gillespie snarls before bawling out his “final solution, a teenage revolution… Equalise! No more lies!’’ Celebrate Thatcher on Twitter after her death for being the “first Spice Girl’’, Geri Halliwell? You dick.
With our say-nothing music scene uniformly shrugging in the face of devastating coalition cuts, it’s testament to how much we need Primal Scream as a mouthpiece of political vitriol that we weren’t prepared to let them slip quietly into the mainstream with the electro-boogie of ‘Riot City Blues’ in 2006 or the arena tech-rock of 2008’s ‘Beautiful Future’. With the core ‘XTRMNTR’ team – the Scream, Shields, producer David Holmes – ‘More Light’, the Scream’s 10th album and first in five years, lives up to its bilious billing.
‘River Of Pain’ tackles domestic violence amid voodoo grooves and swirling psychedelia. ‘Tenement Kid’ is an apocalyptic electro-lullaby for the child victims of Cameron’s current economic war on the poor. ‘Walking With The Beast’ is a blissful Beatles-y sift through the aftermath of a riot. Over some motorik psych-funk, ‘Culturecide’ dissects breadline living in benefit-capped “holocaust central’’ – a bleak ocean of “graveyard flats… breezeblock prisons’’ where minimum wagers at “the bottom of the pyramid’’ live “like a refugee in your own country’’. Throughout, ‘More Light’ illuminates the rotting underbelly of the Big Society.
At nearly 70 minutes, though, it would be pretty draining if it didn’t have a few lighter moments. Thankfully the Primals supply. Garage rocker ‘Invisible City’ celebrates society’s diversity of degradations: crack zombies, kebab-shop punks, suburban swingers and “polysexual gutter stars’’, chanting “I love this city, such a beautiful city!’’. Closer ‘It’s Alright, It’s OK’ is all bongos and rave piano jubilance even while declaring that in this “asphyxiation culture there’s no place for the weak/People circle like vultures waiting for someone to break’’, and subliminally suggesting mass suicide as a solution.
As on ‘XTRMNTR’, sonic assaults add an alien punch, grace and gravity to tracks like ‘Hit Void’ (complete with a saxophone making the sound of a Kraken dissolving) and ‘Relativity’ (with its lovely pastoral coda that sounds like Tame Impala cycling in the Dordogne). But at heart ‘More Light’ is a twisted urban soul record, even throwing Latino bossa nova rhythms into ‘Goodbye Johnny’ and coming on like a Ronettes covers band on ‘Sideman’. As such it marks Primal Scream’s third cultural renaissance. As inventive and relevant as they’ve ever been, it’s an alarm call for a comatose nation being slowly drained of lifeblood. It’s exactly what 2013 needs: more fight. Mark Beaumont 8
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