Bobby Gillespie is a man that's been able to capture the cultural zeitgeist numerous times in the past. Primal Scream's new album More Light has its sights set on similar territory, but despite its all-star cast it falls a little short of its ambitions. The band has changed considerably since their last studio effort in 2008, not least because of the departure of Mani for the Stone Roses reunion. But Gillespie seems to have reinvigorated his voice of a generation credentials by revisiting the high watermark of the Primal Scream back catalogue, Sceamadelica. More Light owes much to the way that record crystallised a seismic shift in British culture. But in trying to make a much darker state of the union address this time round, Gillespie seems bogged down in a little too much urban decay to hit the nail on the head.
Sitting somewhere between the chaos of Evil Heat and the bad trip of Vanishing Point, More Light certainly makes a glorious noise though. It's perhaps a little more varied than previous efforts finding room for Screamadelica type euphoria ('It's Alright, It's Ok') alongside downtrodden Blues ('Elimination Blues'). Throw in a dash of My Bloody Valentine inspired droning guitars ('Hit Void') and pure psychedelic pop ('Relativity'), and you've got the most sonically interesting album Primal Scream has made since 2000's XTRMNTR.
But as first single '2013' demonstrates, Gillespie is trying too hard to get a handle on the cultural landscape. His lament for a lost "teenage revolution" and description of "twenty first century slaves" and "soldier boys dying in the war" all feel a little forced. The strength of his previous social commentary was that it wasn't this straightforward; it seems that subtlety has gone out of the window though, replaced with a simmering anger which is far less enticing. '2013' is also the first sign that the members of Primal Scream have been digging through their seventies record collection for inspiration. Kevin Shields' phasing guitar appearance is punctuated with a brass section taken straight from Lou Reed's heyday. In fact, many of the songs here have an almost reverential feel for the past with 'River Of Pain' acting as another example, as it's elongated mid-section swerves into jazz and full orchestration.
While Gillespie persists in trying to rebel against social injustice ('Tenement Kid') and inner city desperation (for example the "crack house zombies" in 'Invisible City'.), it's the latter stages of the album where he really hits his stride. The voyeuristic suicide ballad simplicity of 'Walking With The Beast' or the reassuring 'It's Alright, It's OK' are the real highlights here. They pay off on all the doom and gloom of the earlier tracks, but it takes quite some time to get to this emotional double punch.
More Light is perhaps not quite the return to form that some have described it as, but it's certainly far more engaging than the last few Primal Scream albums. It could probably have done with a little bit of trimming to its near seventy minute run time, and while Kevin Shields and Robert Plant make welcome appearances, they do feel perhaps a little lost in Gillespie's attempt at a snapshot of twenty first century life. If you'd written Primal Scream off for settling comfortably into the latter stages of their third decade in music by revisiting Screamadelica, More Light will be a pleasant surprise, but it doesn't quite achieve the elevated status it tries so hard to reach.
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