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Primal Scream

Primal Scream

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Album Review

Primal Scream, in 1989, confounded their fans and foes alike by growing their hair past their shoulders, buying Marshall amps and turning them up to 11, and by showing an alarming tendency to appear in public shirtless. Previously the Scream had been the most precious of indie poppers, Byrds fans down to their fringed jackets and freshly-combed bowl haircuts. However, their major-label debut, a pristine pop record, was a big flop, and after they booted out co-founder Jim Beattie, they were ready to fully embrace rock & roll and all the attitude and noise that came with it. Out went the Byrds, in came the MC5, and Primal Scream was ready to rock. Unfortunately, while the group was capable of whipping up a credible approximation of thuggish hard rock, Bobby Gillespie's fragile wisp of a voice is rather ill-suited to kicking out the jams. The lyrics, while never a strong point for Primal Scream, are pretty embarrassing, too. The song titles alone sound like they were borrowed from Jesse Camp's LP: "Gimme Gimme Teenage Head," "She Power," "Lone Star Girl"! What saves the record are the handful of slow torch songs. Gillespie's shaky vocals are affecting and powerful, the band plays with a dramatically light touch, and Martin Duffy's piano work is stellar. The best song here is "I'm Losing More Than I Ever Had," which is a soul-searching mid-tempo song with a great arrangement filled with slide guitar, horns, and gospel backing singers. It also served as the basis for Andrew Weatherall's mix of "Loaded," the song that really made Primal Scream an important band and helped change the history of indie rock. So get this record for the history and try not to laugh too hard at the lyrics

Biography

Formed: 1984 in Glasgow, Scotland

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s

Primal Scream's career could in many ways be read as a microcosm of British indie rock in the '80s and '90s. Bobby Gillespie formed the band in the mid-'80s while drumming for goth-tinged noise rockers the Jesus and Mary Chain, who were the exact opposite of Primal Scream — the latter specialized in infectious, jangly pop on its early records. After a brief detour to punky hard rock, the group reinvented itself as a dance band in the early '90s, following through on the pop and acid house fusions...
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