Primal Scream

TrackAlbum / Single
I'm Losing More Than I'll Ever HavePrimal Scream
LoadedScreamadelica
Higher Than The SunScreamadelica
Big Jet PlaneGive Out But Don't Give Up:
The Original Memphis Recordings
KowalskiVanishing Point
How Does It Feel To BelongCreation CRE 263T
Swastika Eyes (Jagz Kooner mix)XTRMNTR
Shoot Speed/Kill LightLive In Japan
2013More Light
(Feeling Like A) Demon AgainChaosmosis

 

Primal Scream photo 4

Primal Scream 1994 (l to r): Philip “Toby” Tomanov, Robert “Throb” Young, Andrew Innes, Bobby Gillespie, Martin Duffy

 

 

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Primal Scream playlist

 

 

Contributor: Justine Harvey

Brixton Academy, 2002. Supermodel Kate Moss runs on to the stage and shouts, “This is the best rock n roll band the world”. The band is Primal Scream and she isn’t wrong.

On the right day, live or on record, they can’t be beat for embodying the spirit of rock n roll and Bobby Gillespie, to me, is pretty much the perfect frontman.

How to pick 10 songs from a band whose career spans more than 30 years, 11 studio albums plus various compilations and whose sound takes in indie pop, psychedelia, rock and house? Half of Screamadelica, half of XTRMNTR, job done, go back to watching an MC5 documentary? It would be a good playlist but it is what someone who doesn’t really like them would dismissively do. It wouldn’t do justice to the band I’ve seen more than any other. To make things a bit easier for myself, I discounted any covers, so no Slip Inside This House, Darklands nor the brilliant Record Store Day release of Mantra For A State Of Mind.

 

Starting at the beginning then, which for me like many other people, was Loaded. I remember the first time I heard it – in Lucky’s – a bar in Newcastle that was very much a favourite with underage drinkers. I’d not heard anything like it before and it made enough of an impression on me to find out from someone cooler/older/wiser who it was. And then Screamadelica came out, an album which hasn’t been far from whatever music player is in use at that point over the last three decades – an album I’ve owned on cassette, vinyl and CD.

But there were two albums before this – Sonic Flower Groove and the eponymous second album. Controversially I’m not picking anything from Sonic Flower Groove and ignoring the recently re-released single Velocity Girl because they don’t really sound like Primal Scream records. Bobby hasn’t found his voice yet and if you want Byrds-esque jangly guitar songs, there are plenty of other bands who probably do it better. From the Primal Scream LP, I’m including I’m Losing More Than I’ll Ever Have – the song which at the hands of Andrew Weatherall would morph into Loaded. It may seem a waste to include this as well as Loaded, but I think it stands up as a song in its own right – and it works very well live leading into Loaded.

 

Nearly 30 years on, Loaded is still the jewel of Primal Scream’s live sets, even though (or perhaps because) it leaves little for Bobby to do other than shake his maracas and goad the audience about how much they want to have a good time. Where Loaded is the soundtrack to heady nights, Higher Than The Sun is the perfect song for the morning after. Lyrically equally filled with the defiance of the rave generation who refuse to be bound by convention, but for a time when your head might need something mellower. A song that has seen me through a good few mornings after the night before and is the song I’ve always said I want played at my funeral …

Reluctantly not including Damaged or Come Together on the list and worrying that I may not have given enough credit to Denise Johnson’s part, but moving on.

A few years ago I would have happily skipped over Give Out But Don’t Give Up, an album that is even now responsible for many dissenters’ view of the Scream as just a Stones pastiche. They didn’t help themselves by working with Black Crowes producer George Drakoulias. But then in 2018 the Original Memphis Recordings of the album was released and it was time to give it another listen. Stripped of the bombastic production, the soulful ballads shine through. The original version of Big Jet Plane is particularly wonderful, Bobby’s voice at its most plaintive, with just the right amount of gospel choir backing. I’d recommend watching the documentary, The Lost Memphis Tapes, about the rediscovery of the original tapes and going back to Memphis. It is pure joy to see the band so in love with music although it is bittersweet since original guitarist Throb played such a big part in this. The film also features a lot of Bobby Gillespie smiling which is one of my favourite things in the world.

 

Next up, Kowalski from Vanishing Point – their concept album. In case you aren’t familiar with the concept, Bobby loved the 1971 road movie “Vanishing Point” but didn’t think its soundtrack was up to much so wrote it a new one. Going through the entire Scream back catalogue for this post, I could easily be persuaded that Vanishing Point is their best record, certainly picking between tracks on here was harder than any of their other records, even after discounting the three cover versions. Kowalski, named after the hero of “Vanishing Point”, is harder and darker and sounds nothing like the Stones.

From the same period but hidden away on the B-side of the Star 12″ is How Does It Feel To Belong. A song described by Bobby himself as “kinda smack-y” and “strung out”, it is the Scream’s equivalent to Pink Floyd’s Comfortably Numb. It’s a rare song that is not long enough; I’d happily spend half an hour in its company and always want to immediately replay it.

In late 1999 the Scream are back with the single Swastika Eyes. And they have come back a lot angrier. Bobby has short hair and an army surplus jacket. Angry about globalisation, capitalism, the world. But righteous anger makes for great music. The band are hanging out with the right people, with Jagz Kooner and the Chemical Brothers producing versions of it. The band clearly had the same difficulty choosing between versions that I did with both appearing on XTRMNTR.

 

In an album not short of brilliant tracks, Shoot Speed/Kill Light is my favourite on XTRMNTR. But it is even better live, so the version here is from the Live In Japan album. With Mani (of Stone Roses fame) on board as their full-time bass player and My Bloody Valentine’s Kevin Shields joining them in the studio and on tour, Primal Scream became a supergroup. Many happy memories of seeing them live in the early 2000s. Bobby, Innes, Throb, Kevin Shields and Mani lined up across the front of the stage playing Shoot Speed/Kill Light, the Scream were a force to be reckoned with.

XTRMNTR is a hard act to follow. Evil Heat is ok; the best thing about Riot City Blues is its name (a perfect Primal Scream album name in fact) and I’d completely forgotten that Beautiful Future existed. For their next great song we have to wait until 2013 – the year and the song. It’s a nine-minute odyssey complete with trumpet, saxophone and a lyrical tirade against the old foe capitalism. Yet somehow it works – probably down to a combination of David Holmes as producer and that Bobby really means it.

I like their latest album Chaosmosis, but then I have a soft spot for tinny 90s house. It is a very danceable record, even at its most downbeat as on (Feeling Like A) Demon Again. With whispered vocals about paranoia, rejection and jealousy, we are a long way from the loved-up rave of Screamadelica. This is the sound of nights in dingy clubs where the regret and hangover start before the night ends. Sordid sleazy nights when you should be old enough to know better. This is the what a band who’ve been around for 30 years should sound like.

 

Primal Scream photo 2

Two photos by Justine Harvey

Primal Scream photo 3

 

 

Primal Scream – Big Jet Plane from “The Original Memphis Recordings”

 

Swastika Eyes on “Later… with Jools Holland” (May 2000)

 

Primal Scream perform Jailbird, Rocks and I’m Losing More Than I’ll Ever Have live on MTV “120 Minutes” in January 1994

 

Primal Scream perform Damaged at Hultsfred Festival, Sweden in 1994

 

 

Robert Young (1964–2014)

Primal Scream official website

Primal Scream YouTube Channel

Primal Scream at Discogs

Primal Scream biography (Apple Music)

Having written about topics ranging from baby car seats to housing policy, Justine Harvey now mainly writes about theatre buildings for work or her passion for outdoor swimming. Writing about music has made a nice change. She is on Twitter @seatinthestalls and Instagram @justinefharvey

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