Primal Scream have just released their tenth studio album More Light. It is a hefty portion of paranoid electro rock ‘n’ roll that is menacing foreboding, bleak and uplifting. It could have been the soundtrack to A Clockwork Orange, the 1971 Stanley Kubrick film based on the Anthony Burgess book first published in 1962.
This celluloid classic portrayed, prophetically, the social and political decay of Britain, accompanied by a culture of extreme violence. I sneaked in to watch the movie at the tender age of 12 (it was rated 18) at a cinema in Ashton-under-Lyne and it still freaks me out to this day. The film inspired punk.
On my first listen to More Light, its attitude and sound took me right back to the sweaty, dank cinema years ago, conjuring up images of the bowler hat-wearing Malcolm McDowell scouring the decaying council estates in search of violence.
Bobby’s new record is haunted by the past too, with reviewers wrongly comparing it, sonically, to Screamadelica. The single It’s Alright, It’s OK, could have been written back then, but that’s it. The album is produced by a band that have always ploughed their own furrow and it’s as much about attitude and state of mind, as the songs found therein.
For a number of reasons Screamadelica is one of the most important British albums of all time. This long player set a high watermark for the Glaswegian outfit. It not only lifted the inaugural Mercury Music prize in 1992, it kicked down the doors of the underground and entered into the mainstream like a raging bull tormented and frothing at the mouth. Without any radio or MTV support, this album transcended clubland and became the de rigueur of the mainstream. You would eventually hear it being played at christenings, weddings and funerals.
The album reflected the hedonistic ecstasy-fuelled club experience of the late 1980s, an uprising in youth culture akin to that of the punk movement of the 70s. This seminal recording was the sound track to the “second summer of love” and is as important to club culture as Never Mind the Bollocks… by the Sex Pistols was to the disenfranchised youth of Great Britain in the mid to late 70s.
Alchemist hipster singer Bobby Gillespie imbibed the Masonic experience of the Hacienda in Manchester, the Zap Club in Brighton, and Shoom in London via the Balaeric island of Ibiza, soaking up the sounds of Chicago house and Detroit techno along with the strains of S’Express and Happy Mondays. The sweat-soaked, hands-in-the-air, goggle-eyed clubgoer would get high, come down and watch the sun rise listening to this record and I was one of them. It was all encompassing.
Primal Scream still make uncompromising, thoughtful and opinionated music and are a vital component of the music business. They just might stop its decay.
2013, the opening track to More Light, is a nine-minute, in-your-face epic that is right up there with anything that Screamadelica has to offer. It is equal in sound and attitude. Lyrically challenging, it deals with BP/Shell, damaged daughters and damaged sons, the killing of the counterculture underground and asks how it is that punk came and went and nothing changed. It’s a very bleak opening to an album.
“It’s an angry song, it’s a critique of youth culture,” explains Gillespie. “The fact is that nothing really seems to change. There is no dissent in culture generally. People are silent and by becoming silent you become complicit with the machinations of the system. We came from punk, which is the music of protest and descent. What I loved about punk is that it painted a more truthful picture of the world that I lived in as a teenager. As an artist you should stand on the outside of any power structure and offer up some kind of opinion, whether people agree with you or not. At least we are saying what we feel. As an artist you have a platform to say what you feel about the world. We are not trying to beat people over the head with our political opinions. I’m a rock ‘n’ roll singer and its part of what we do.”
What Bobby and his band do is ply their trade well. The album is about a damaged society, a society that needs reflection and fixing. It is an uncomfortable listen that makes you nervously itch, scratch and think and is a reminder of just how things are. This is exactly how great music should make you feel. It holds you hostage.