September 5, 2002

Test Spin: Primal Scream

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After the glorious ecstasy-fueled rush of 2000’s XTRMNTR — Primal Scream’s fearsome monster of a punk/techno album — it was hard to imagine what the Scream Team might do next. They’d already tackled paranoiac atmospherics (Vanishing Point), celebratory club culture (Screamadelica), and dub (Echo Dek) in the past few years, and then the brain-melting XTRMNTR pushed them to a whole new level. On the follow-up, Bobby Gillespie and co. ease expectations by retreading past successes for much of the record.

Despite this, the opener, “Deep Hit of the Morning Sun,” is anything but a retread. Driven by overlapping patterns of electronic noise — swooshing engines, chriping insects, and clattery psuedo-drums — the song is sure to drop jaws and get Scream fanatics excited about yet another radical departure for this band. Things quickly settle down, though, with the predictable techno-rock of “Miss Lucifer,” which could easily be an XTRMNTR b-side. Several other songs, including the flat industrial anthem “Rise” and the over-the-top aggro-punk of the excellent “Skull X,” also tread close to XTRMNTR territory.

Meanwhile, two instrumentals, “Autobahn 66” and “A Scanner Darkly,” are clearly influenced by ’70s Krautrock, particularly electronic pioneers Kraftwerk (whose 1974 landmark “Autobahn” is a clear template for the former song). Both songs, though not deviating far from their inspiration, are pleasant enough. Another standout moment is the seedy, static-ridden blues of “The Lord is My Shotgun,” which features some scorching harmonica solos from Robert Plant. The album ends with “Space Blues #2,” a surprisingly tender moment of spiritual closure which asks, “on the judgement day … will the blood of Christ sanctify your soul/ will you follow Satan down to Hell below?” It’s a reminder of the Scream’s diverse capabilities — as proficient at touching balladry as in-your-face rawk. And this album, though not moving into new territory, further solidifies this band’s hold on the land they do own.

Archived article by Ed Howard