Primal Scream’s new album, More Light, is the rock & roll musical equivalent of a very long, arduous, mind-bending trip. You will span time with this album. Whatever you are doing when “play” is pressed will be different than whatever you’ll be doing when silence finally returns.
It’s been a quiet few years for the Glasgow rock band. Their last album, Beautiful Future, was released in 2008. Since Screamadelica‘s sun-dried, trance rock entered the world in 1991, Primal Scream albums have progressively grown more and more raucous and abrasive. More Light brings it all to a head.
The opener, “2013,” is a nine-minute swirl of crescendos and drop-offs and horn squawks and loose endings of whatever crossed the microphone. “21st century slaves / A peasant underclass / How long will this shit last?” Bobby Gillespie sings in muted, maniacal whispers, firing up a revolution. The next song, “River Of Pain,” is built on an acoustic tremor and stretches way out into the bog of your mind. It travels downstream with little thorny bombs of noise floating about until slipping off the cliff into orchestral clouds.
And it continues on like that. Each song is full, bulky with different shrieks, echoes, strikes of feedback, etc. gurgling to the surface. When Primal Scream pressed record they vaunted their instruments and got lost in the room. Most of the time that’s a good thing–a loose chaotic war zone of psychoactive rock–sometimes, though, it can be a drain. Clocking in at 68 minutes, the album does become a task halfway through, but that really could depend on the mood you’re in, or the drugs you’re on.
One thing that’s certain about the songs on More Light, is they e v o l v e. The shortest song, “Goodbye Johnny,” is three-and-a-half minutes long, but most are between four and six minutes and in that time the structure gets dismantled, rebuilt and layered to the nines. Every facet of psychedelic rock is featured on this album. Bluesy acid-drop, spastic freak-out jams, funkadelia, hypnotic blacked-out drones all come roaring from the cannon.
“Turn Each Other Inside Out” drops you in a highway scene painted by Ralph Steadman. It skids downhill with a driving, plunking guitar encountering hiccups and daydreams on the way down. The bass in “Tenement Kid” paces side-to-side in the background while the guitar summons extraterrestrials. “Elimination Blues,” quells the noise for a moment offering some panicked blues with Gillespie’s shuddering oooohs mingling with riotous backup singers. On “I Want You” the haze of Jefferson Airplane mixes with the slow-romp of The Troggs. “It’s Alright, It’s OK,” bursts back to ’91, while “City Slang” taps the energy of The Stooges.
Gillespie and his minions are still wide-eyed, living on society’s fringes, squeezing every last drop from life like the sponge it is. When they sweat, you sweat. You might, one day, outrun a train; you can’t outrun More Light.