Primal Scream

Beautiful Future

The ninth Primal Scream album. Does anyone care any more? Evidently the general music press care quite a lot, although the best they seem to be able to come up with in order to justify their love (The Scream now share Madonna’s PR) is that it’s only rock’n’roll but they – sigh – like it. Whenever you hear a real actual person enthuse about them, which isn’t often, they always seem to be “friends of Bobby”. Do you wanna be in his gang? You’d have to pretend to like some dreary hackneyed music and place a damp cloth over any intellect you might possess, but there’s loads of drugs and impressionable skinny girls around. Kate Moss‘s vacuity-as-resonance is a perfect match for the band‘s body of work.

It’s hard to think of any aesthetic value system under which Primal Scream could be considered meaningful or important. Third generation copy-ism is what they do: they do it almost competently, apart from that piss-awful reedy vocalist, and for less demanding types that’s fun, which they feel is enough.

Of course you’ll find people who claim Screamadelica was a “classic”, that ‘Rocks’, uh, “rocked”. (It did, but not as much as the Faces album tracks it aped). The first fluked into a zeitgeist that was waved through only because everyone except me was on drugs. ‘Loaded’, their most enjoyable track, has little to do with them and more to do with Weatherall. It gave its name to lads’ mags, which in turn set back feminism by twenty years. Kudos for that then, boys. Like The Verve, they are about mass drunken get-togethers, where individual sensitivity or thoughtful dissent is to be looked at funny, possibly glassed outside Wetherspoons. Their contribution has not greatly added to the sum of human achievement.

Can Primal Scream sound remotely interesting if you’re not totally wasted? Can they be of any use other than filling in between albums for Stones fans and telling us MC5 are great when MC5 clearly haven’t been great since Harold Wilson was P.M.? What would happen if they were barred from mimicking the tired tropes of the weary old Sixties heroes they unimaginatively revere?

Something like this would happen. On Beautiful Future, they hand over half the production to Paul Epworth and half to Bjorn from Swedish whistlers Peter, Bjorn And John. With the Bloc Party man they sound very choppy, all guitars kept staccato, as you’d expect, to no great effect. With the Swede they aspire not to “Young Folks”-style lilting and lolloping but to Seventies Glam Rock (how many years after Suede and co?). But they get it all wonky. They sound like Sailor.

You won’t remember Sailor. Sailor dropped in on the tail end of Glam Rock, which had by then become Glam Pop. They wore stripy tops. They were harmless enough. Their two most notable hits were “A Glass Of Champagne” and “Girls, Girls, Girls”. One of them had a fling with one of Pan’s People, which may be the most intriguing and surprising thing about them. Primal Scream, getting it all wrong as per, elect not to be influenced by Bowie or Bolan or Roxy or Sparks or even Wizzard. Oh no. Primal Scream try to go Glam by displaying the direct, photocopied influence of Sailor.

When they’re not spending the first two tracks being Sailor, albeit with daft lyrics about “naked bodies hanging from trees” they’re presenting a weak Prince tribute on “Uptown”. It serves only to remind us how well Prince does Prince, even when he‘s not at his best at doing Prince. Getting through this whole review without using the word “karaoke“ is not easy. ‘Suicide Bomb’ showcases Gillespie’s usual sledgehammer subtlety with words: “gas chambers“ and “nooses“ are exciting imagery to him. He comes across as an idiot savant, except without the savant part. ‘Zombie Man’ is unwitting self-parody from a band who have to go to pretty ridiculous lengths to reach unwitting self-parody. And do. Lovefoxx, from dreadful, inexplicably acclaimed, office-disco clodhoppers CSS, turns up for some cred by association on “I Love To Hurt” (You Love To Be Hurt”) – ooh, so kinky! So wild and dark and dangerous! Josh Homme plays guitar on “Necro Hex Blues”. So, big whoop. They have friends. Who are in bands.

Oddly, a Fleetwood Mac cover, ‘Over And Over’, brings Brit-folk oldie Linda Thompson in for a duet. Anyone could sing with more charisma than Gillespie: Thompson certainly does. This will be hailed as a “great” track, you can tell. Yet one of the most distressing trends of the last decade has been the rehabilitation of Fleetwood Mac as media darlings. Fleetwood Mac were bland, mainstream, coked-up hippies with terrible clothes and hair who woke up every morning and wondered how they could sell out in ten different ways before breakfast. They were Jeremy Clarkson’s jeans. They made Sailor seem like Iggy. Quite why they are “cool” again, as opposed to vastly superior genius songwriters The Bee Gees, is unfathomable. Almost as unfathomable as how The Scream have pulled off a lengthy and critically-condoned career without ever having a single original idea. Don’t look for any here, obviously.

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