Less is More
Primal Scream is celebrating thirty years as a band, with most of those years spent flying just under the radar. Over that time, members have come and gone, leaving founding member and vocalist Bobby Gillespie the one enduring feature of the band. Even their sound has morphed over the decades, pushing the boundaries of Brit-rock towards indie, dance, psychedelic and whatever else caught their ears. What does a band that’s spent thirty years experimenting sound like? If Primal Scream’s tenth album More Light is any indication, it’s kind of a mixed bag.
Primal Scream’s philosophy seems to be “MORE.” The album nears seventy minutes and the band is not too shy to start off with the nine-minute lamentation of 21st-century values in “2013.” Pining for the mythic 1960s integrity, Gillespie wonders, “What happened to the voices of dissent? / Getting rich, I guess” over protest chanting, repetitive horns, and swirling guitars. It’s a bit overwhelming, and continues through the next few songs (twenty-five minutes).
The fog clears with “Tenement Kid,” the first of a string of focused, pared-down songs stripped of distractions and minutes-long sax solos. Gillespie sings in full voice rather than intense whispers, and becomes more introspective. Moving through the triumphant dance of “Invisible City,” the slinky “Goodbye Johnny,” and the blues-pop of “Elimination Blues,” Primal Scream shines best when not trying to throw all their talents into one song.
More Light closes with “Walking with the Beast,” a ballad of bad ends, and the single “It’s Alright, It’s OK,” a great reminder of Primal Scream’s strength as a fun-time band. With any luck, the band will focus more on these strengths and less on their self-indulgent streak.