Now that all the tawdry celebration, enforced jollity and hollow communal experiences of last year are nothing but a pile of newspaper mulch, it’s good to know that someone’s got a grip on the euphoria game. “My love shines on”, sings Bobby Gillespie blissfully, surrounded by the kind of hands-in-the-air action you’d expect down the revivalist tent, “My love shines on…”. Time, thankfully, to bask in the glow of a band moving out of the darkness.
Last time out – more than two years ago – [a]Primal Scream[/a] were looking like a band up way beyond their bedtime; bloodless, joyless and listless. Less than they used to be, less than we all deserved. It seemed that, live, the pleasure channels had finally silted up, that this was a band going through some barely-perceptible heavily-limbed motions. Tonight – a low-key warm-up date before they spread their message of civil disobedience across the continents – shows a splendid rejuvenation, the kind of flaming rebirth normally put down to UV-light bathing habits. God knows, they were cutting it fine – even in their absence the whole idea of rock’n’roll passion solidified like sweat on a fretboard, the same old local boys quoting heartfelt emotion with bellowing voices. And, yeah, guitars.
[a]Primal Scream[/a], though, are working from a different algebra, rescuing passion from the real-ale swamp. ‘Pills’, for instance, sees the spooked hip-hop of the album track cuffed to an elastic bassline, Gillespie shouting desperately, “I’m going to tell the truth/The truth about you”. From the very beginning they calculate a mood of us and them, a spiders-beneath-the-skin paranoia rather than cheery affirmation. There’s a glower from Bobby, guest Kevin Shields‘ steady gaze, a spot of incoherent mumbling from Mani about Arkan, the CIA and “MI-Fucking-5”, and the adrenalin-primed title track of new album ‘Exterminator’, that doesn’t so much as force its views down your throat as stick your head in its mouth.
If jumping down a manhole and lighting yourself a candle is obviously the wise option, [a]Primal Scream[/a] are out on the streets with torches and knives, not so much a band as a breach of the peace. Sure, when it comes to stating the obvious, they rival Piccadilly Circus, but the path of self-righteousness clearly leads to a holy fusion. Mani, following their current vowel-free trend, is wearing a shirt that reads ‘Prml Scrm Mthrfckr’ – which as a statement of fact is pretty undeniable, but more than that it confirms that this is a band as hard as a mouthful of consonants, refining a tired old rock’n’roll lexicon into their own spite-sweltered shorthand.
They can shift from the thrillingly mindless blue-jeaned hedonism of ‘Rocks’ straight into the beat frenzy of ‘Swastika Eyes’, patchwork and patchouli ripped away to reveal a sleek, leather-techno rage, highlighting the connections and the history – not to mention their veracity. Miraculously looking fantastic, Bobby‘s the living metaphor, an ageless amalgam of every rock pose, every death-ray stare and air-punch, arching and flicking his skinny body across the stage like he’s being shuffled by a card shark, rounding on a heckler with a “shut up” so vehement you can hear the front row’s frightened whiplash.
You have to ask the majority of bands currently cowering under the rock’n’roll banner exactly what it is they think they’re doing, when there’s a band that still displays such a consummate, compendious understanding, who can thunder through the gothic fantasia of ‘Blood Money’, then wheelspin through the immensity ‘Kowalski’. Who can hit the past with the blues-mayhem of ‘Medication’, then split rock like an atom with ‘Accelerator’. Who can still play ‘Movin’ On Up’, and still shine on. You really don’t need to spell it out. Prml Scrm? Fckng xcllnt.