Primal Scream – More Light

 

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Ever since 2000’s magnificent politically charged mayhem of XTRMNTR, Primal Scream have slipped into an artistic rut, drifting aimlessly around in search of electronic decadence or hitting dead-end walls with their nostalgia-draped roots-rock. After their two previous disasters of Riot City Blues (2006) and Beautiful Future (2008), you have to forgive me for not thinking they had an album like More Light in them, but it seems that their one year tour of celebrating the 20th anniversary of their momentous Screamadelica (1991) have revitalized their creativity.

Albeit, the two singles preceding the album didn’t give much of a clue that More Light would be significantly different than any of their post-XTRMNTR efforts. The nine minute epic of single “2013” does on occasion give hints of past glory with a ridiculously catchy saxophone lead and Kevin Shields glittery guitar play. However, with a bold title named after the year of its release, you would expect a song that lives in its current moment. And in a way it does since 2013 seems to be about the revitalization of early 90’s Brit pop with the return of My Bloody Valentine and The Stone Roses (at least as festival headliners). As this year already seen a lot of indie bands turning their heads towards Shields and Brown & Co for inspiration, “2013” could’ve been winner, if not for sounding like a cluttered version of themselves.

Second single, “It’s alright, It’s Ok” is Gillespie & Co’s usual fetishism with Stones-y blues rock, a habit they never seem to get rid of, even if it’s more convincing than any of their attempts since 1991’s “Move On Up”. Still, on the basis of the two preceding singles, I was far from convinced. However, in-between these two singles that bookends the record, Primal Scream delivers their most ambitious and convincing effort in 14 years.

On initial listening, it appears that they might’ve tried too hard, fitting every possible piece of their back catalogue into one hour worth of material. But luckily, producer David Holmes manages to clean up the mess and sculpt More Light into a sonically solid blast of psychedelic-furry. If Screamadelica’s unified ambiance could be credited to producer Andrew Weatherall , than More Light is definitely a David Holmes record. Primal Scream always sounded at best when heavily assisted by various collaborators.  Besides Holmes and Shields, there’s blues-rock legend Robert Plant, industrial-pioneer Mark Stewart and cinematic composer Woody Jackson, doing their part in creating an expansive and fragmented sonical excursion.

On several occasions More Light succeeds in matching their past career heights of Screamadelica and XTRMNTR; the brilliant seven minute epic of “River of Pain” starts with a subtle “Pain’t it black”-style psychedelia, before it suddenly destabilizes with an Ornette Coleman-esque outburst of free-jazz orchestral; “Hit Void” owes everything to Kevin Shields guitar template in delivering the albums nosiest rock outbreak, matching XTRMNTR’s most warped moments. Furthermore, the eerie groove of “Tenement Kid” with Gillespie’s Lennon-like moan, the psychedelic krautrock of “Turn Each Other Inside Out” and not least the multi-faced “Relativity”, further displays a band that once again dared to step out of their lazy comfort zone. And there’s more, Robert Plan’s contribution on “Elimination Blues”, “Sideman’s” straight-to-the-point psychedelic rock and the mandatory ballad of “Walking with the Beast” creates a largely slump-free second half.

More Light manage to successfully channel the bands two career peeks into one messy affair, and by doing so, they’ve created an album that sounds nothing like either of them. Apart from occasional slumps, More Light is a high-spirited, engaging record that breeds new life into their extensive discography. Their light shines brighter than for over a decade.

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