Taken from last week’s magazine, an in-depth look at some key releases on the legendary label.
How Primal Scream led us into a rave new world
It was, at the time, the equivalent of Alan Carr ‘having a go’ at Shakespeare for Comic Relief only to turn in an Olivier-worthy Hamlet. If you’re going to reinvent yourself, it’s always a good idea to utterly epitomise, expand and ultimately overshadow the genre you’re trying out, and Primal Scream’s ‘Screamadelica’ did exactly that to acid house in 1991. It was the first sign of Creation releases shifting music’s tectonic plates, demolishing the ’80s and throwing up a new landscape for the new decade.
‘Screamadelica’ became a phenomenon almost by osmosis. First ‘Loaded’ found this formerly aimless indie guitar band infiltrating the rave underground with its counter-culture calling card Peter Fonda sample, ecstatic beats and punchy pop horns. Then ‘Movin’ On Up’ turned those same horns upon Stonesy gospel pop and roped in the girls and groovesters. Then ‘Screamadelica’ – a glorified compilation album thrown together in a post-rave haze – emerged as, finally, a sophisticated rave record worth listening to at home.
Virtually a real-time concept album following the enraptured highs and strung-out lows of dance culture, it straddled the dancefloor (‘Loaded’, ‘Come Together’, ‘Don’t Fight It, Feel It’), the chill-out zone (‘Higher Than The Sun’, ‘Inner Flight’, ‘I’m Coming Down’) and the clued-up dinner party (‘Movin’ On Up’, ‘Shine Like Stars’). By incorporating hints of blues, gospel, rock and choice sentiments, ‘Screamadelica’ was the first fully rounded and human rave record. What other dance record at the time would have included a high-harshing country-blues ballad of heartbreak like ‘Damaged’, rave’s own ‘Everybody Hurts’? So that was dance music reinvented practically in their sleep, what next? Industrial-electro riot-rock, lads? Oh, go on then…
How My Bloody Valentine nearly broke Creation, but saved music
“Unfortunately ‘Loveless’ is loveless for me.” So says Alan McGee – the man who remortgaged his house, faced financial ruin and endlessly begged its makers to put the bong down and do some proper work so that the world could hear it. It clearly comes with baggage for Alan – but for those of us upon whom it simply dropped out of the ether of 1991 it’s still unparalleled in terms of guitar rock invention.
At times it’s the operatic mourning wails of creatures mutated in a nuclear winter (‘Touched’). At times it’s a blissed-out pagan sacrificial dance at sunrise, with Shields’ velvet/metallic guitar as the riot vans on the horizon (‘Come In Alone’). At times it’s an angel’s rave in the pleasuredomes of Coleridge’s Kubla Khan (‘Soon’, ‘I Only Said’, ‘Blown A Wish’). Most of the time it warps and stretches music through dimensions you never knew it had.
It’s a pop record disguised as challenging sonic art. And it’s probably about the fourth best record ever made. Today, a record like The Horrors’ ‘Primary Colours’ is heaped with critical adulation just for making an amateurish stab at imitating it. Our advice – to Alan and others: sup from the source.
3. Definitely Maybe
The greatest debut of all time? Hell, yes!
Tanaaaaaiiiyytt, ahm a rock’n’roll styaaaaaarrr…”. There’s few opening volleys in rock so prophetic. When Liam Gallagher first sang ‘Rock’N’Roll Star’ he was full of fire and ambition; by the time it opened ‘Definitely Maybe’ it sounded like a band who just knew how unutterably brilliant they were. Within months it had made Nostradamus look like Mystic Meg. There was suddenly no ‘maybe’ about it. Shed all memory of ‘Go Let It Out’, Oasis were unutterably brilliant in 1994. From ‘Columbia’ (still their best song? Commentageddon!) to the cocaine cataclysm of ‘Supersonic’ and the way ‘Live Forever’ surfs the stratosphere with barely a flap of effort, ‘Definitely Maybe’ was a celebration of noise, of rock’n’roll’s volcanic roar and the nefarious deeds it could make men do.
Lose yourself to narcotics? Pass the ‘Cigarettes & Alcohol’. Think you’re the sexiest thing since sliced Depp? How you doin’, ‘Shakermaker’? Um, kid yourself you can make a Fat Duck-worthy lasagna? Pop ‘Digsy’s Dinner’ in the mikie, our kid… Indeed, whatever Oasis’ lyrics were (clumsily, randomly) tackling, they were delivered with such assured, firebrand conviction and belief that you ended up worshipping this surrealist drivel like a modern rock Gospel According To St Liam. It’s why the record managed to lay down new musical laws and boundaries – it set rock (Oasis) against pop (Blur) and, alongside Elastica’s debut, cemented blatant plagiarism as the Britpop blueprint.
Faced with the cocksure brilliance of ‘Shakermaker’, what jury in the land would convict? Er, except the one that awarded The New Seekers half a million dollars, obviously. ‘Definitely Maybe’ was Oasis’ Big Bang, an explosion of elemental power and brightness. If any band ever managed to bottle lightning, it was here.
This article originally appeared in the May 21st issue of NME