on 28 June 2013
Rather than a big fanfare, Primal Scream slipped back into the disco with 2013 in February. With songs appearing on the internet rather than the radio and social media covering every slight movement these days, easing their way back in probably suited the band who had apparently turned down landing at Luton Airport because it wasn't rock n roll enough.
After spending 20 years as magpies to a man and producing a varied offering of albums at every turn More Light shows Primal Scream have found their beat; they actually, finally, sound like themselves. Beautiful Future was the prophetical start and, five years later, this album continues the groove.
But the departure of Mani back to the reformed Stone Roses could have left a gargantuan hole. He singlehandedly woke the Scream Team from a heroin riddled Stonesian nightmare, bringing with him a battering range of bass lines as heavy as an iron army marching with only utter destruction as intent. Simone Butler steps into Mani's size 10 kickers, playing with ingenuity and subtleness on a less bass-centric record.
2013 is a state of the nation address that opens with an almost comedic police siren, its rhythmic Roxy Music sax sitting alongside Neu!'s Hallogallo beat - Krautrock is a touchstone the band continually stroke. Gliding along for over nine minutes gives Bobby Gillespie plenty of time to checklist the ills facing Britain in, er, 2013.
Politics is a subject Gillespie enjoys, rebellious behaviour a stylistic default setting, and More Light gives him over 70 minutes to mix the two. Yet this isn't Billy Bragg or Rage Against the Machine political activism, the message is delivered in the Primal's own bleeding spirit of rock `n' roll style.
A strange Indian mantra teases River of Pain downstream, acoustic guitars with a ripple of castanets, before David Holmes' film score production adds drama to a finale of glorious 1950's MGM strings, as the Eastern rhythm returns like a smoother cousin to Tomorrow Never Knows. These songs are noticeably less concise, and the expanded workout can be sprawling, but the variety within engages the listener, encouraging them into a kaleidoscopic tunnel of sounds and colours. A hint of psychedelia weaves through the LP, where traces of Can and Hawkwind circle the periphery.
Holmes' production hand brings stability to the rock `n' roll train; rather than lurching from disco to dub, the band are coherent and are sounding like, well, like Primal Scream. This isn't to say it's a pastiche of previous primal palettes - although It's Alright, It's Ok is a fair echo of Movin' On Up.
Hit Void's urgent drumming is the foundation for a swelling, industrial grinding backdrop for Gillespie's plaintive repetition of the title. Then a Robert Fripp guitar comes straight from Scary Monsters to accompany a squawking sax to close four blistering minutes. There's more procurement on Tenement Kid as the bass line comes from the same block as Pink Floyd's Money.
For what is thrown at the Scream Team in regards of stealing, massaging and twisting other people's work, here is a group of music fans so devout that it can only produce something that will beat seven bells out of the blandness sent through the airwaves of today.
So in an act of honesty Gillepsie, Innes and Duffy invited Robert Plant to sing on Elimination Blues, rather than just ripping off the best voice to hold a senior citizens card. Plant and Gillespie trade lines in this slow country blues take. Some exquisite female backing vocals compliment the deep male semi-drawls as a squally guitar rivals for the spotlight. A standout.
Another bright light is Invisible City, which fizzes and bubbles with funk, its Teutonic pulse and warm bass line creating a joyous dance floor shuffle. Holmes reviving his Las Vegas skills from his work on the Ocean movies liberate the listener from the extreme times the band are documenting elsewhere.
With Relativity we're back to the lengthy tracks of squelches, steady beats with Kevin Shields lending his buzzing, thick guitarscapes, until halfway through it becomes a dreamy, delicate, meandering vision. And this it what makes the album seem longer than it actually is, it's not short, but the lack of a couple distinguished pop gems gives the album a protracted feel, but there's quality shapeshifting within nearly all of the tracks to stave off tedium.
The shackles of parody haven't fully been kicked off though, Movin' On Up It's Alright... closes the record with it's euphoric gospel lifting you away from the apocalypse, doing exactly what is says on the tin.
Unfortunately, Chairman Bob and co will eternally have Screamadelica to chase, and will probably always fail to catch, but a deeper look in to their musical well delivers a few belters. It is, after all their wild forays into various aural pastures through each album, a band who have now located an identity that contains all their influences and they've used this alchemy to produce a cohesive connection to the their last long player and to sound vital on this one. More Light is a knowledgeable and deft record, one which displays creativity and ambition, heralding their rampant diversity while acknowledging the spectre of their influences; a band who, from this awareness, have confidently found their own sound. Maybe the myth of being a universal tribute act has finally been XTRMNTD.
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