Primal Scream – More Light
Primal Scream are no strangers to robust political debate. This is a band that once planned to release a song entitled Bomb the Pentagon, and felt comfortable discussing the military-industrial complex. Earlier in the century, the Scream had hit an undeniable creative peak. Their music was industrial in scale, savage in sound and unashamedly critical of UK-US foreign policy right at a time when few, if any, artists had much to say about anything other than themselves.
But Gillespie & co, for whatever reason, then reverted back to writing Stones-esque rock 'n’ roll boogie on 2006’s Zeitgeist-opposing misfire Riot City Blues – and their reputation as innovators was lost at a stroke. The irony was that it contained Country Girl, an above average sing-a-along that became their highest charting single to date. The Scottish group seemed happy to go down the Oasis route; a perennial live favourite who could be relied upon for a decent festival show, even if their most recent record was best avoided.
A sell-out Screamadelica tour in 2011, to mark the 20th anniversary of their first landmark album, was well-received, but it seemed to further suggest that Gillespie would now be keeping his political barbs for magazine interviews, rather than records. So it’s something of a surprise that More Light, the band’s first album in five years, is so deeply political in content. Margaret Thatcher and the House of Lords are both referenced within the first three songs, and on Culturecide Gillespie sings about the plight of young people “living like refugees in their own society.”
For that matter, it's an album big on sloganeering, heavy bass riffs and the kind of unsettling tenor sax parts last heard on Fun House by The Stooges. The tone is set with 2013, a nine minute Krautrock beast in which Gillespie ponders where all the voices of dissent have gone: “Getting rich, I guess." You have to wonder if he’s referring to himself. There are moments of levity, such as It’s Alright, It’s Ok – their latest attempt at creating a southern blues rock song worthy of the name – but the best moments are the reflective Tenement Kid or the pounding Hit Void.
The band’s decision to re-enter the political debate perhaps won't satisfy their detractors. None of the lyrics found here would excite a Dead Kennedys fan. But the Scream have always presented themselves as a rock – not a punk – band. The message has always had to fit their swagger, and in 2013, Primal Scream no longer appear to be in the mood for good-time music. Bobby Gillespie is back throwing lyrical grenades – the stance that suits him most.