#437: Screamadelica, Primal Scream
A Scottish band! Oh, and Blur is next. I’m in UK heaven lately, especially after the Pet Shop Boys.
Probably the most embarrassing thing about me is that all my favorite albums are albums from the UK in the Nineties. And the only ones that really translated over here were “Wonderwall” and “Song 2.” It sucks!
But I was a Primal Scream virgin, so let’s dive in. The first thing I learned that singer Bobby Gillespie was first in another band that I’ve always thought had a sickass name but have never bothered to go digging and listen to them: the Jesus and Mary Chain. But he just so happened to be the drummer, and as such, he decided to bail on them and join a cooler band.
Gillespie has said that his Holy Trinity for this album was “Siouxsie and the Banshees, the Buzzcocks and Joy Division.” (Fair warning, that interview is with that 1975 guy.) Notice that most of the bands referenced in this review are British. Maybe the reason that UK music didn’t translate so much in the US was because it’s so insular.
So I basically knew I was gonna love everything about this as soon as I saw the album cover, which later inspired a Screamadelica Stratocaster, which looks INCREDIBLE. Gillespie and his bandmates were inspired by house music and their previous life as a straight alt-rock band, making it one of the wildest alt-acid combo albums ever. It’s giving MGMT, but in 1991.
Case in point: they worked closely with several different producers on this record. Andrew Weatherall is responsible for much of it, including the sunny, sample-filled “Loaded.” But even though Weatherall made the definitive mix of “Come Together,” (no relation) the US edition of the album is only available with the mix made by Terry Farley. Then there’s “Higher Than The Sun,” produced by — no joke — The Orb.
Giving producers more power means more creative production, hence the Scream’s evolution into critical dog to critical darling. They just had to evolve into an acid rock band. Maybe they were inspired by their cover of “Slip Inside This House” by the 13th Floor Elevators, or Mezzanine for the extremely Mezzanine-esque “Don’t Fight It, Feel It.” And even though this predates Radiohead’s dive off the deep end by nearly a decade, “Higher Than The Sun — A Dub Symphony In Two Parts” feels a lot like the most robotic iteration of Thom Yorke.
Since it’s a UK album, there’s maybe one too many choral/pastoral vibes. The best use of it is “Movin’ on Up,” the power-poppy opener with an incidental chorus. Acoustic “Damaged” is sort of a snooze, and the closer “Shine Like Stars”’ accordion makes it end on a goofy note. On the other hand, since it’s a UK album, I had some magical transcendant moments with it. See “Inner Flight” and “I’m Coming Down” for the ones I think are the prettiest.
Look forward to more Karla Clifton really soon!