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Definitive Albums: Primal Scream 'Screamadelica' (1991)

A Pyschedelic Cornucopia of Pharmaceutical Communalism

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Primal Scream 'Screamadelica'

Primal Scream 'Screamadelica'


We Know That Music Is Music

"Don't Fight It, Feel It" sounds the title; this dancefloor anthem chirruping with Italo disco insistence, its repetitious rhythms on luring listeners into the endless hedonism of the clubber's trance. The title is, in many ways, a piece of funk hokum, but it's also a telling entreaty to fans of Primal Scream's early days; to the Indie kids who'd grown up in the '80s (musical) paradise of post-punk Britain, whom they wanted to join them on their journey into the eternal bliss of the disco. The Scottish outfit had arisen as part of the C86 epoch, all Byrdsian jangle clad in anoraks, but now they were undergoing an evolution; acid house's Summer of Love —and cornucopia of drugs— turning these erstwhile indie-poppers into clubbing evangelists.

Roping in house music DJ Andy Weatherall as producer, Primal Scream were leaping into uncharted territory; liberating themselves from the shackles of the rockband set-up, and heading out onto the dancefloor, and into the blinding optimism of nascent rave culture. This wasn't some proto-rocktronica exercise, grafting beats onto the same stock-standard sounds, but an exploration of the musical continuum; drawing connections between a historical lineage of related sounds.

For Weatherall and Primal Scream leader Bobby Gillespie —the former drummer of proto-shoegaze outfit The Jesus and Mary Chain, who'd founded the band in 1982— acid house grew from disco just as disco grew from soul, and soul from R&B, and R&B from gospel; this all, in a grand spiritual sense, part of the grand spiritual gestalt of rock'n'roll.

"Come Together" embodies this idea: looping a Gospel hosanna and riding out over ten celebratory minutes; and endless devotional building a shrine to the glories of human communion. "We are together," the Reverend Jesse Jackson barks, in an old sample lifted from the concert Wattstax; "today on this program you will hear gospel, and rhythm and blues, and jazz/All those are just labels/We know that music is music."


Music had, however, never sounded quite like Screamadelica. Its self-mythologizing title promised a self-styled psychedelia, which largely seemed like a pharmaceutical theory; lead single "Loaded" flirting with mystic hippydom cavorting through gnarly bongos, prog-rock organ, and sampled sitar; connecting the counter-cultural uprising of '60s America —"we wanna get loaded" Peter Fonda, on loan from motorcycle classic The Wild Angels, exhorts— with the rise of raves via their pharmaceutical underpinnings.

"Movin' On Up" draws broadside gospel and Stonesy swagger into a circular realm of beat-loops and fader-flicking; "Higher Than the Sun (A Dub Symphony in Two Parts)" occludes the band almost entirely from the picture, its Dub-leaning production a studio concoction in which the producer moves parts in and out amidst trails of echo; and "Slip Inside This House" (another song with a titular entreaty) laces of-the-moment piano-vamping pop-house with squalls of sitar and the Doorsian babbling of Gillespie.

It was a work of radical, poly-genre, cross-cultural, timeframe-straddling fusion that was both a product of the musical developments of late-'80s Britain, and a forward-looking act of liberated futurism; a gateway LP leading listeners towards so much of what would come in the '90s. Screamadelica manages to live up to that stand-by cliché of the album as journey; its cast-feeling 65 minutes forging forever forward, both through sure-footed sequencing and its own sense of merry adventure. As much as Screamadelica came steeped in the lessons of rock'n'roll's past, it was an album utterly unafraid of the future.

Record Label: Creation
Release Date: September 23, 1991

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