Fall from Grace - Primal Scream

Maybe I'm missing the point?


This article was inspired by the piece that my good friend John Cottrill wrote about his experiences at Glastonbury. A piece that included a somewhat disappointed review of the Primal Scream set. This, in turn, got me thinking about the Scream and my admittedly non-commital relationship that I have had with their music over the years.


I suppose everyone has a Primal Scream record in their collection and I would lay a bob or two that this record will be Screamadelica, their 1991 masterpiece; not so much an album than a collection of brilliant singles, magical pop moments in time. I own it too. It's a work of rare insight and genius, a record that feels very natural; very much of the late eighties/early nineties, yet not feeling tied to any particluar time and always a pleasure to revisit.


I spent most of 1990-1 mooning around listening to beautiful pop moments like Higher than the Sun and Come Together. It encapsulated everything about that time, a druggy freedom and a fin de siecle libertarianism, undermined by a 1789-style beligerence. It was as if Gillespie and co. had stopped being studious and po-faced and loosened up. It was a magical album in it's revelations.


My first encounter with the Scream was in about 1986 with their release Ivy Ivy Ivy, a typical jangly, Byrdsian pop-pastiche. Soon afterwards they appeared performing this single on the television, Gillespie waving his arms around like a limp windmill, later telling the interviewer that "everything was psychedelic, staring at the sea was psychedelic." Quietly thrilling stuff for up-tight 1986. I'd a lot of respect for Bobby, even though I didn't really see his new band as that special. After all he'd been the drummer who'd stood up to play the drums in the Jesus and Mary Chain and I really liked that.


Still, the early Scream were just amongst many other bands in the C86 movement and seems as I preferred other bands like the Weather Prophets and the Bodines I quickly forgot about them. Apparently the Primals went all rock with their second album (which I didn't buy) and so they slipped out of my precocious teenage consciousness, very much like the Weather Prophets and the Bodines, indeed, very much like my seventeenth century English History A-level notes.


Until 1989. 1989 saw the release of their single Loaded, a record so far removed from what I had imagined Primal Scream to be about that I was sceptical that it was the same band. It was fantastic, it had yearning and sex bursting out from every grooving pore. It was a classic teenage dance-floor filler; indie-pop girls danced to it as well as the Stone Roses. There was also enough guitar wankery present for the boys to air guitar along to and plenty of inherent suggestiveness for those with less cerebral things on their minds. The follow ups, Come Together, and Higher than the Sun, whilst not as catchily groovy, were fabulous trippy discs... just made for lying in a field and watching the sun go down.


It was as if the band had finally found their niche.


Which makes their subsequent releases all the more baffling. Not disappointing, just baffling. The next LP, Give Out But Don't Give Up replete with the single Rocks Off (I'm surprised Mr. Jagger didn't sue) was pedestrian where Screamadelica was adventurous. I was so disappointed with it that I haven't listened to it for ten years. After that I found all their releases (with the exception of the brilliant Vanishing Point) somewhat lacking, full of empty thunder, rehashes of past glories. I dunno, they didn't move me as they had for that brief moment in time.


Moreover, Mr G began to annoy me too. His antics became increasingly baffling; (one minute he'd be moaning about the corrupting, capitalistic nature of Western society the next he'd indulge in excessive behaviour that could only be found in, or even tolerated in, erm, a corrupting Western capitalistic society). It all seemed a bit hypocrytical. No one is a saint, and no-one should be castigated for living their own lives (outside of murder, rape, larceny etc etc); but if you are going to criticise a way of living, it does help if you aren't actively enjoying and over-indulging in freedoms that are, in effect, by-products of that way of living; (maybe Mr G would say that he's taking advantage of it to show it up, or something). Whatever. I am sure I have expressed myself very badly here, but it all seemed a bit two-faced. Maybe I'm missing the point?


What really pissed me off however, was his scrawling anti-Israel slogans over a charity banner at Glastonbury (replete with signatures of the 'great & the good' of the pop world) that would help raise funds for (I think) Oxfam. Before you say it, I'm not really pro-Israel, or anything like that; it's just the idea that this attempt at raising money (already two or so years in the making) for a good cause, however cheesy and self reverential, has been utterly fucked up by his "statements" (which, doubtless, "needed to be heard"), that rankles with me. What a juvenile knob! His anti-Israeli statements could have been better expressed elsewhere. Spoiled brat or what? Mr Gillespie. Grow up.


Words: Richard Foster