I simply cannot believe that there's NOTHING under this node
. This is an AMAZING album by the band Primal Scream
. In a recent issue of Q1
, it was voted the second best album to come out during the magazine's lifespan
(the last 15 years) -- the only album getting more votes was Radiohead
's OK Computer
. It beat Nirvana
. It beat Sonic Youth
. It beat The Smiths
. This album was a revolution
This album took the classic guitar-popish indie and turned everything about it upside-down and inside out. It added dance beats, gospel choirs, weird fusion sounds, ambient effects, jazz and dub to the mix -- making this album a swirling roller coaster of club goodness. This new development in the indie scene -- the deconstruction of borders between all genres -- could already be seen in The Stone Roses' or Happy Mondays' more experimental moments. But never before had a single album squeezed so many influences, so many ideas and so much music into a single CD. Another thing that strikes you is how carefully crafted this album is. While there are so many different overdubs, effects and harmonies, it's all there for a purpose. That alone makes it almost as relevant today as it was 10 years ago.
And it's an excellent album to smoke pot to, as well.
The starting point for this album was when Creation made themselves piss poor getting big shot producer Andy Weatherall to remake the Scream's I'm Losing More Than I'll Ever Have. The remix, Loaded, became an instant underground hit. Weatherall took a liking to the collaboration and agreed to produce their next album, Screamadelica (together with The Orb and Jimmy Miller, no less). There's been some debate about just who did the most -- Primal Scream or Weatherall? Weatherall produced 8 of the 11 tracks, and it is more or less in line with his previous work. On the other hand, while it may not be in line with Primal Scream's earlier stuff, it IS in line with their later Weatherall-free albums Vanishing Point, Echo Dek and XTRMNTR. On the third hand, Weatherall has demonstrated the ability to create some amazing grooves -- something which the Scream seem to be lacking... and the grooves are essential to the album. On the fourth hand, the three non-Weatherall tracks are clearly in line with the rest of the album, but... Oh, why do I even bother? It's better than everything else Andy Weatherall made; it's better than everything else the Scream made. Period. Let's just say they helped each other.
Still, does it even matter? I'd consider Screamadelica genius no matter who made it.
1. Movin' on Up
2. Slip Inside This House
3. Don't Fight It, Feel It
4. Higher Than the Sun
5. Inner Flight
6. Come Together
9. I'm Comin' Down
10. Higher Than the Sun (A Dub Symphony in Two Parts)
11. Shine Like Stars
Released in 1991 by Creation.
The album kicks off with a classic guitar track, like the ones on their debut, Sonic Flower Groove, called Movin' on Up. Except that everything's not as it should be. A minute or two into the track you realise that "Hey, wait a minute -- this ain't indie! This is GOSPEL!" But then the guitar solo kicks in (which, unlike 99% of all guitar solos, actually is enjoyable) and you're still not sure. It continues on with Slip Inside This House. Again, their roots are showing -- this is a cover of psychedelic 60's rockers the Thirteenth Floor Elevators' Slip Inside This House. It doesn't sound anything like psychedelic rock, though. Its dubbish club beats and swirling guitars are as hypnotizing as Bobby Gillespie's hazy vocals, which is quite an amazing feat.
The third track, Don't Fight It, Feel It, is a pure dancing track. When I tried to make my friend like this album by playing it to him over and over again, he said that the main beat sounded like a sea lion. While I wouldn't really agree with that, it still says something about how unlike everything else at this point in both the club and the indie scene Screamadelica sounded. The lyrics by Denise Johnson pretty much encapsulate everything there is to know about clubbing:
na na na na na na fa fa fa
Gonna get high 'til the day I die
It's not just a normal club track, though. There's a synthesized boogie piano
lurking in there, and Denise's vocal sounds more like soul
. The record marches on with the ambient
masterpiece Higher Than the Sun
. Excerpts from the lyrics:
My brightest star's my inner light let it guide me
Experience and innocence bleed inside me
Hallucinogens can open me or untie me
I drift in inner space, free of time
I find a higher state of grace, in my mind
The first time I heard it, this track almost made me feel like I'd been smoking pot
when I hadn't. That's something that's never happened again, not with any piece of music. The way it combines dreamy ambience with acid house
. The ambient continues on Inner Flight
, a dreamy, floating instrumental
piece. It has a flute playing a relaxing melody over twisting beats-without-beats and a choir sounding like whisper
They then kick away from all drugged-up dreaminess with the song Come Together. It was mixed in two radically different versions. That is, RADICALLY. First there is the UK version. You hear a man preaching over handclaps, what sounds like an old rock organ, and some very hard-to-describe synth sounds that have to be heard.
This is a beautiful day
It is a new day
We are together, we are unified
And all for the cause
Because together we got power
Apart we got power
Today on this program you will hear gospel,
And rhythm and blues, and jazz
All those are just labels
We know that music is music
It continues on into an undanceable-dance
fest, with something synth-generated which sounds like a slide guitar
, odd beats
and just... pure goodness. I can't describe it better. The US/single version is, instead, a gospel love song. All vocals have been replaced. All beats and sound effects are replaced. The only thing remaining is the single few repeating bars on which the whole UK version is built and the horns section. It's still good, but not as outstanding.
It moves on to the next song, Loaded. The first single off the album, and maybe the best one. It's producer/mastermind Andrew Weatherall's remix of the Primal Scream's earlier (and, as I have to admit, horribly bad) song "I'm Losing More Than I'll Ever Have", which was a relatively harmless pop song. It has removed all Bobby Gillespie's vocals except one "aah yeah" (Good move -- he sounds awful on that track...) and keeps only the horns section and the basic guitar riff. He added excerpts of dialogue from the movie The Wild Angels (...we wanna be free to do what we wanna do, and we wanna get loaded...) and made it a fantastic 7-minute music orgy. The man's a genius.
The album then proceeds with a slow stonesy piano ballad, Damaged. Bobby Gillespie sounds almost child-like over the slow piano lines and the single guitar. This song feels slightly out of place, if you can say that about such a multi-faceted album, but is still a great song. It starts to prepare you for the slowdown at the end of the album -- it's like coming down from a high. Coincidentally, the next song is called I'm Comin' Down. This is another dreamy, drugged-up tune, with Bobby almost whispering: "Drifting, drifting... drifting, drifting...". This one, just like Higher Than the Sun, PERFECTLY describes the feeling. Everything about it seems so right.
Screamadelica then proceeds deep down into the druggy dub caverns with the sequel to Higher Than the Sun -- Higher Than the Sun (A Dub Symphony in Two Parts). This one is twice as long, and without real vocals. It has a much darker edge to it. The first part of the song is Bobby going "aaahh" over and over again with the sound of a man inhaling/exhaling over a drugged-down beat and a weird, repeating melody line I just can't seem to put my finger on. It then starts to repeat the line "Higher Than the Sun" over and over again, with the song becoming more and more intense, until it finally cuts to an abrupt stop. It then starts over again with jazzy acid-house beats and builds up to a new, dubbier climax.
Then comes the final track, Shine Like Stars. This is when you finally come down completely from the high. It's a really beautiful ballad with horns, percussion-lines and hazy but sincere lyrics.
I watch you dance
You look so happy
Lost in the moment of abandon
You're set free
To me you're precious
May you always
Shine like stars
Shine like stars
Shine like stars
1I'm not saying that Q is a good magazine. :)