It is really sad to think that a band like Primal Scream who has been at it for over 20 some odd years has yet to make a single, solid album in their whole career. ‘Screamadelica’ was their crowning glory, an indie dance classic…and that was 22 years ago. They came close to getting another good one together with ‘Vanishing Point’ in ’97, but it has been a very long and dry haul since then.
There is no one to argue the fact that they are a fantastic singles band, but for them to try and string together enough ideas to keep a constant through 10 songs have proven to be just too much.
‘More Light’ is the band’s 10th album, and dare we say, their most far reaching. Bobby Gillespie talks much about influences and his heroes, and ‘More Light’ is when he makes a gumbo with his favorites Sly Stone, Sun Ra and an array of discarded 60’s soundtracks. This is the record where the ‘Scream go for Cinemascope, and it actually may prove to be something that works for them. Think about it; after hacking away so long at rock and roll, sometimes the only place left to go is truly far out or deep into the music of your parents (and grandparents). Never say never.
No matter how far they may reach, they never manage to let go of their ‘Primal Scream by numbers’ kitsch. It is safe to say, that Bobby Gillespie and Brett Anderson have to be the two most tiresome frontmen whose lyric books are more than half filled with empty pages. Their incessant descriptions of urban blight and decay wore out its welcome 20 years ago. Bobby makes it worse with his constant political whining. We know how much he loves The Clash, but politics don’t suit him or Primal Scream. He is really starting to seem like that old wino who hangs out in dark corners amidst the trash cans and yells at no one in particular about how life did him wrong. Try something really different, like a smile and a walk in the country. Lighten up a bit, it just may work wonders.
“2013” was a juggernaut of a single. In retrospect, it may have worked against them. It was a sprawling wonder that showed such great promise. It was the big gun and perhaps it should have been held back for greater effect. Likewise, the song is used to kick off the double LP set, and sets the tone to which most of the album falls embarrassingly short on. The opener is followed immediately by some sort social commentary on domestic violence, “River of Pain” in which Bobby starts his whispering his tale of Johnny and his sordid tale. Gillespie is not a story teller and as this illustrates, he should steer well clear of any attempts. The pseudo-Bitches Brew era free form space drive is supposed to take us further into the murky tale, but it just helps to illustrate what could have been and not what really is.
For those who listen to this album on vinyl, you get one saving grace per side, the rest is complete filler. That is not saying a lot. This double LP should have been sent to work out a bit and lose the fat. Only four really worthwhile songs out of an album of 13 tracks does not make for good odds, especially when some sides are literally what Bobby fears most, just urban blight.
Side 2 has one charmer with a wretched name, “Tenement Kid”. Subject matter is obvious, but musically the ‘Scream go for broke on the blend of the blues and widescreen cinematics. It is a direction that could work extremely well for them if they choose to run with it. If you are gonna go for broke, you may as well take it as far as you can. This is preceded by two of their most cringe-worthy tunes “Culturcide” and “Hit Void” and followed by what appears to be an updated B-52’s throw away updated to sound gritty and relevant, “Invisible City”.
It is all downhill from Side 3. It starts off nicely with Bobby Gillespie doing his lounge take on Suicide, “Goodbye Johnny”. He puts on his crooners jacket and actually fits pretty well…too bad he’s already singing about Johnny earlier. Throw in a piece of junk with “Sideman” then your last decent tune before a barren wasteland. “Elimination Blues” carries a predictable, trite title but weighs in much better with its music. The Scream try to venture deep into the Louisiana swamps here. A nice bit of sweaty blues.
The rest of the album and complete fourth side is a waste. It is a pastiche of badly executed space jams, psych-outs, and stoned ballads. It truly is a walk through of how perfect the ‘Scream follow their recipe for album making. Gotta have one of this, one of that, some of this and the complete walking in their sleep dud of a closer, “It’s Alright, It’s OK”.
No, really it isn’t alright and it is not OK. It is a bulbous waste of time. This is junk-and not the type that Bobby sings about in his little urban tales, this is the kind that hurts your ears and bruises your intelligence. It is a lot to ask your fans for over 20 years of patience for a decent record and still throw out half-baked chunks like this.