In the best possible way, Primal Scream know how to be stupid. This, after all, is the band who wrote ‘Rocks’, whose last record featured their singer claiming, Bo Diddley-style, that he had “a crown made of human skull!” Here, halfway through their ninth album, Bobby Gillespie tells us he’s “goin’ off like a suicide bomb” (on the death-march of, erm, ‘Suicide Bomb’). Shortly afterwards, on ‘Zombie Man’ – a song that sounds like Alice Cooper doing Ringo Starr’s ‘Back Off Boogaloo’ – he’s singing about “control-addled vampires high on blood”. Just before single ‘Can’t Go Back’’s explosive guitar solo, meanwhile, he yelps, “Let’s go!” like an 18-year-old punk who’s stepped into his first garage just five minutes previous.
These days, of course, Primal Scream’s leader is also an Islington-residing, (relatively) clean-living father of two who last month turned 46, and it’s reconciling this with all of the above which sends his detractors apoplectic. They moan that it’s not, y’know, real. But the truth is, now more so than ever, there are few people on this earth who understand what rock’n’roll is about better than Bobby Gillespie. It’s why he can record both a blissed-out cover of Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Over & Over’ (backing vocals supplied by Linda Thompson) and a guitar thrash-out with Josh Homme (closer ‘Necro Hex Blues’) and be totally convincing on both. Bobby G is a fantasist, sure, but he ain’t no faker. Rather, he’s a no-holds-barred believer.
Plus, if you do require “gritty realism”, then check the title track (nicked wholesale from Mick Ronson’s ‘Only After Dark’) and its observations of how you’re “not really free… only free to buy the things you can’t afford”. Or the shimmering disco of ‘Uptown’ and its bittersweet tales of obliterating the memory of nine-to-five mundanity on a Saturday. Plus, there’s another two songs about destructive relationships – both of which feature the line “Why do we hurt each other so much/Chasing the glory, the glory of love” – rooted in grim reality. What’s more, the second, the pulsating ‘I Love To Hurt (You Love To Be Hurt)’, features Lovefoxxx, a lady who, as anyone who read last week’s NME (or their album review) will be aware, couldn’t be more “real” when singing about such matters.
Musically speaking, ‘Beautiful Future’ is, as advertised, a pop record, with the producers – as ever with the Scream – being chosen wisely. It’s not a record that will please the significant number of Scream fans who long for a return to the electronic blasts of ‘XTRMNTR’, but fuck that. Björn Yttling of Peter, Bjorn And John fame adds a fizzy pop sheen (not to mention, on ‘The Glory of Love’, Abba’s marimba) to half the album, while Paul Epworth takes two songs (the title track, the single) and furthers his reputation as one of the greatest producers of the modern era. Youth adds requisite ridiculousness to ‘Zombie Man’, and somehow the whole thing hangs together as one coherent whole. If Primal Scream hadn’t made a career out of reinvention, then it would qualify as a brave new direction. Bobby Gillespie was spot on when he told NME it was an album of “sugar-coated bullets”. A fine mix of fantasy and reality, made by a band who never run out of ideas, sung by a singer too smart to fall apart and too excited by rock’n’roll to stop being stupid. A lesson (and a dance) for us all.