Primal Scream, ‘More Light’ – Album Review
Primal Scream frontman Bobby Gillespie doesn’t know the meaning of the word “moderation.” Everything about his band, his band’s music and his way of getting from point A to point B (or C or Z or whatever) is done via the most complicated route. Always. Gillespie truly believes that bigger is better and that anything short on ambition and/or pretention isn’t worth the effort. It was that way on 1991’s breakthrough record ‘Screamadelica,’ and it’s still that way on Primal Scream’s 10th album, ‘More Light.’
The group’s first record in five years clocks in at almost 70 minutes, with its 13 songs averaging more than five minutes, two breaking the seven-minute mark and the opening ‘2013’ stretching past nine minutes. Gillespie overstuffs almost every single one of them with enough production tricks and musical mayhem to keep headphone junkies busy for the next three months. It’s all meticulously shaped for maximum intensity, and, as always, it’s a bit too much.
Still, ‘More Light’ is Primal Scream’s best record since 2000’s ‘XTRMNTR,’ a geyser of sounds, big ideas and special guests (Robert Plant makes an appearance; so does My Bloody Valentine’s Kevin Shields, who temporarily joined the band in the late ‘90s and helped define their two best albums). But Gillespie is at the center of the sprawling work, pulling the strings and corralling the dozens of ideas that seem to pop up every 45 seconds or so.
Like in the past, the album’s most invigorating moments are its most audacious ones. The honking, shoving saxes that push ‘2013’ forward are urgent and New Wavey, Plant gives ‘Elimination Blues’ a Zeppelin-style injection of heft and ‘It’s Alright, It’s OK’ closes the album with a hymn of hope. Also like before, Gillespie doesn’t say much on ‘More Light’; words aren’t chosen so much for their coherency as they are for their ability to play well with their surroundings.
Even though it’s overlong and disordered, ‘More Light’ wouldn’t benefit from trimming. It wouldn’t be Primal Scream, and Gillespie wouldn’t be Gillespie, without all the clutter and chaos. It’s sort of a working-well-under-pressure thing for them. The record isn’t perfect, not by a long shot. At times it’s barely tolerable. But they don’t know any better. And they wouldn’t have it any other way.