BY FRED MILLS
O, Bobby Gillespie, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways… Just as Lulu once gushed (in To Sir With Love) about how on-screen mentor Sidney Poitier had taken her “from crayons to perfume,” Gillespie has, over his quarter-century tenure as frontman for Primal Scream, taken us from the jangle to the groove, freeing both our minds and our asses in the process. The group hit an early summit on landmark ’91 release Screamadelica, a record which, of course, helped redefine the aging UK rock scene for a youth climate awash in DJs, dance music and the drug Ecstasy while connecting it firmly with the hippie movement of yore. Soon enough, however, Primal Scream embarked upon a pick-and-choose exploration of rock’s tattered tapestry that included overt forays into ‘70s-ish, Stones-styled hard rock, ill-advised Prog and even neo-metal, and despite some occasional bursts of excellence (notably 2000’s politically-charged XTRMNTR, powered by hypnotic single “Swastika Eyes”), the group’s commercial star dimmed considerably, along with its reputation as an influential tastemaker.
The groundwork for More Light was apparently laid in
In 2011, though, when the Scream decided to perform the entirety Screamadelica to mark its 20th anniversary—first came the re-airing in London on Nov. 26, 2010 (a show filmed and released on CD and DVD as Screamadelica Live), then a good chunk of 2011 was spent touring the classic—gears summarily began grinding and the creative juices commenced flowing. Not long after, they hunkered down in the studio with producer/DJ David Holmes and assorted guests (among them: Robert Plant, Jason Faulkner, My Bloody Valentine’s Kevin Shields and the Pop Group’s Mark Stewart, plus a full horn section and a slew of female backing vocalists). What they emerged with is the sound of a band utterly reborn. Boasting a lush, cinematic vibe dotted by intriguing deep-mix flourishes, exotic instrumentation (such as sitar and African percussion) and sample-snippets (as befits Holmes, who has scored a number of films), More Light is—like Screamadelica before it—a tripmeister’s delight.
The highlights are numerous on this album, which is that rare, all-over-the-map beast that resists the temptation disappear up its own eclectic ass and instead allows the groove to be its guide. There’s 9-minute opening track “2013” which in its horn-laden, glam-rock blare and lyrics about “a teenage revolution” and a “rock ‘n’ roll nation” aims to be as much a manifesto for now as “Loaded” or “Don’t Fight It, Feel It” were back in 1991. That’s followed by the trance-blues of “River of Pain,” which morphs from an acoustic guitar/percussion study into a surreal journey upriver into psychedelic dissonance laced with orchestral flourishes from producer Holmes. Both “Culturecide,” a hypnotic, part-chanted/part-sung invocation/invitation (to anarchy? to Occupy? to throw away preconceptions and challenge the politicians? only Gillespie knows for sure!), and “Sideman,” with its Nuggets-worthy fuzzadelic wooziness, subtly acknowledge Screamadelica as their spiritual forefather. And closing track “It’s Alright, It’s OK” deliberately references the ’91 release via its anthemic, gospel-pop vibe (check the keyboards, beats and female chorus). There’s also an intriguing mid-album detour by way of kitschy cabaret number “Goodbye Johnny,” which has as its origin some lyrics penned by late Gun Club singer Jeffrey Lee Pierce; Primal Scream adapted Pierce’s words to new music, resulting in a kind of kitschy, jazzy cabaret number featuring a terrific smoky sax solo.
Throughout, Holmes maintains a steady hand on the controls, never letting the stylistic shifts overwhelm the overriding ambiance, which is to revel in sensuality of synapse-stroking while riding the pure physicality of a full-on dance/rock record. As lead singer Bobby Gillespie smacks his lips and cheekily proclaims near the record’s end, “Ooh-la-la!” One readily imagines him popping up from behind the studio’s isolation cubicle walls, flashing devil horns on either side of his head, and grinning at his bandmates—kinda like what he’s doing on the frankly bizarre album cover. “Mission accomplished, mates!”
DOWNLOAD: “It’s Alright, It’s OK,” “River Of Pain,” “Culturecide”
Release note: the 13-song album also comes as a deluxe edition featuring 6 bonus tracks:
2. River of Pain
4. Hit Void
5. Tenement Kid
6. Invisible City
7. Goodbye Johnny
9. Elimination Blues
10. Turn Each Other Inside Out
12. Walking With the Beast
13. It’s Alright, It’s OK
14. Nothing Is Real / Nothing Is Unreal (Bonus Track)
15. Requiem for the Russian Tea Rooms (Bonus Track)
16. Running Out of Time (Bonus Track)
17. Worm Tamer (Bonus Track)
18. Theme From More Light (Bonus Track)
19. 2013 (Weatherall Remix) (Bonus Track)