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Primal Scream, The Usher Hall, Edinburgh

  • Published in Live


Having not seen Primal Scream live at any point in the past twenty years I’ve not really anything to compare tonight’s show against although, given the variety of their work in that time (both in terms of styles and quality), I’m expecting a mixed bag at least. Add to that the curiosity value of how Japanese noiseniks Bo Ningen will go down in the support slot and you’ve got interest on a number of levels.

True to form, given the level of the headliners, most people weren't bothered enough to come into the hall to catch Bo Ningen's 30 minutes. Why see two bands for £30 when you can see one? Then again they're not everyone's cup of tea (when the tour reaches Kilmarnock later in the week I'll wager the town's never before played host to their like) but tonight, whilst not blowing Primal Scream off the stage, their show was fully authentic, not to say also very energetic and underneath the relentless guitar work you could discern a bit of a groove being laid down so they may have gained themselves a few more online listens, if not at least full-on new fans. They're clearly making the most out of what is surely a tongue in cheek idea of Gillespie's.

It's gearing up for the office party season so what better way to get in the mood than head along to see Primal Scream and have a dance to a handful of numbers? Nowt wrong with that if you're not stood stock still for the main part of the show, only coming to life about four songs from the end when 'Swastika Eyes' injects a bit of life into proceedings and the older fans recognise 'Country Girl' and the last couple of numbers. Not that one expected most people to care about anything other than the contents of Screamadelica.

Things started off ropey with a thin sound and recorded backing vocals on opening song 'Movin' On Up'. Clearly this was going to be a workmanlike performance from a less than classic line-up. Full marks though for the setlist not being top heavy with material from new album Chaosmosis but the structure didn't seem to have been thought out past that, ending up disjointed with the likes of 'Cry Myself Blind' and '(Feeling Like A) Demon Again' rubbing up oddly against the faster tracks.

Bo Ningen had no audience input to feed off & for the bulk of the main set neither did Bobby & co. as those standing in the Stalls were largely static. Unfortunately The Scream's performance didn't mask the immobile crowd (it could clap along well when prompted though) and there was that thin sound, a number of drum kit running repairs and a distracting bassy rumble throughout 'Come Together' to top off the less than amazing show.

Last year's nostalgic gig in the same venue was a different kettle of fish entirely but tonight Bobby Gillespie came across very much like his generation's Rod Stewart (even the old punks discussing the show behind me on the bus home hadn't been fired up enough to go out drinking elsewhere) and The Skinny's recent inclusion of the band in a list of those they felt should have already called it a day, something I disagreed with based on the More Light album, now feels entirely justified. And who was that blonde in the kimono watching the entire show from the backstage?


Primal Scream - Chaosmosis

  • Published in Albums

It has been a typically erratic decade for Primal Scream, incorporating line up and label changes, accompanied by musical output ranging from the fun, but retro artistic dead end of Riot City Blues, to the directionless low point of 2008’s Beautiful Future, where the lack of musical creative inspiration was matched by Bobby Gillespie’s lyric generator seemingly stuck in “junkie”/”hex”/”needle”/”disease” mode.

The sprawling More Light (2013) was a tentative return to more adventurous, broadly psychedelic territory, with hints of past glories, but was hampered by a restrained execution and lack of quality control.

By contrast Chaosmosis finds Primal Scream changing tack again with a “mission statement” (according to pre-release chatter) to create an album of singles, which results in a lean, 38 minute release of predominantly glossy sheened, catchy electro-pop clearly in thrall to New Order.

At its best, as on driving, Funkadelic-quoting, stomper ‘100% or Nothing’, and lead single ‘Where The Light Gets In’, the band create the “ecstatic pop” they were aiming for. On less impressive fare such as limp album closer ‘Autumn in Paradise’, it feels like they have replaced previous default settings (The Stones, ”high energy rock ‘n’ roll”) with a new one.

Things get more interesting when the band deviates from this template. The woozy organ, drum machine and falsetto soul croon of ‘I Can Change’ brings to mind a hybrid of More Specials and George McCrae, while frankly odd multi-part opus ‘Carnival of Fools’ commences with Game Boy style bleeps, before veering off in to languid windswept piano balladry via a nod to Freddie Mercury’s ‘Living On My Own’.

Lyrically things are generally quite dark with themes of loneliness, paranoia, self loathing, obsession and anti depressants, reaching a pinnacle on ‘Golden Rope’ where the Mondays meets Banshees lolloping groove grinds to a halt for Gillespie to repeatedly intone “I know that there is something wrong with me” over a celestial choir. As an antidote to this, the lyrics of delightful baroque, folky duet with Rachel Zeffira (Cat’s Eyes) on ‘Private Wars’, resemble a self help litany.

The band come a slight cropper when harking back to their own past. Opener ‘Trippin’ On Your Love’; complete with Balearic piano, John Squire style guitar and a similar drum sound to their own ‘Come Together’, aims for a re-enactment of Screamadelica era bliss, but only succeeds in sounding like any number of baggy bandwagon jumpers. Brief ‘Miss Lucifer’ rehash, ‘When the Blackout Meets the Fallout’, while a welcome blast of aggression on an otherwise easy listen, feels like a by the numbers attempt to restate their noise credentials.

Whilst being a typical Primal Scream mixed bag, and a release that may not quite realise it’s full potential (fewer choruses consisting of the repetition of the song title wouldn’t have gone amiss), this is their most enjoyable and least frustrating release in years.

Chaosmosis is available from iTunes and Amazon.

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