The title of Primal Scream’s 11th album might sound like something band leader Bobby Gillespie dreamt up while under the influence, but ‘Chaosmosis’ is actually a highfalutin reference to French psychotherapist Félix Guattari. His 1992 book of the same name argues human subjectivity is shaped by phenomena outside the “faculties of the soul”, specifically language, mass media and technology. Applying that idea to these songs is an almighty stretch, but more pertinent is Gillespie’s own definition of the word as wisdom gleaned from madness – and ‘madness’ is surely how the Primal Scream of yore would’ve dismissed the notion of making a record about sobriety and recovery.
Back in 2013, as the band’s late-career renaissance was getting underway with ‘More Light’, a newly abstinent Gillespie confessed that drink and drugs had “put my life in chaos” and the music had suffered for it. ‘More Light’ turned out to be the Scream’s best, most intrepid work since 2000’s ‘XTRMNTR’, but while ‘Chaosmosis’ is a worthy successor, it’s a very different beast. Where the former opened with the nine-minute jazz-rock apoplexy of ‘2013’, the latter does so on the melon-twisting exuberance of ‘Trippin’ On Your Love’, which borrows the piano riff from Happy Mondays’ ‘Step On’ and features Haim as a kind of six-legged Rowetta surrogate. Not for the first time, you’ll want some of what Bobby’s having.
Then again, maybe not. Instead of projecting its ire outwards, ‘Chaosmosis’ frequently gazes inwards. ‘Where The Light Gets In’, a pulsing electropop duet with Sky Ferreira, might declare that “peace begins within” but it’s also a place where uncomfortable truths present themselves, as they do on the self-excoriating ‘(Feeling Like A) Demon Again’ or ‘Carnival Of Fools’. It’s strange to hear Gillespie’s famously acidic tongue turned upon itself on ‘Private Wars’ (“Thorns grow in your heart/ Poisoned from the start/ Angry still at everyone/ Time to let it go”), while a breathy backing vocal from Rachel Zeffira (best known for Cat’s Eyes, her project with Horrors frontman Faris Badwan) needles away like the better angel of his nature. Over the course of a 35-year career defined by excess, reinvention and the occasional brush with genius, Primal Scream have made all sorts of albums, but not one quite like this.