When Primal Scream Created Their Own World With ‘Screamadelica’
Following their 1989 self-titled effort, Primal Scream were somewhat directionless. But a remix of "I’m Losing More Than I'll Ever Have,” titled “Loaded,” became a Top 20 hit in the U.K. and helped them find a new sound, which blossomed on Screamadelica.
Released in Sept. 24, 1991, it was one of the more fascinating albums to come out that year. It was a thing unto itself with strong ties to the past, feet planted in the present and eyes focused on the future. Thanks to the direction provided by "Loaded," the band were somehow able to mix elements as seemingly disparate as '60s psychedelia, gritty rock and roll, gospel soul, Brian Wilson ambience and house music into something that stood alone.
The album kicks off with the gospel soul-injected "Movin' on Up." From the first strums of the guitar, it's an instant classic, taking a vintage 1968 Rolling Stones vibe and painting it in contemporary colors. "We wrote it as a ballad, a really slow ballad," said guitarist Robert 'Throb' Young in a documentary about the album. "It was sounding absolute crap!" "It was a piano and vocal song, a gospel song. We weren't really getting anywhere with it," said singer Bobby Gillespie. "Then Andrew [Innes, guitarist] came up with the Bo Diddley 'Magic Bus' guitar riff, and that was the glue that held everything together."
Immediately, they shift gears on the second track, "Slip Inside This House," a cover of the 13th Floor Elevators 1966 classic. They kept the psychedelic glaze of the original, but recast it for the acid house generation. By track three, "Don't Fight It, Feel It," the house influence was front and center and the ties to the past much more veiled. “We wanted to make it like a ‘60s soul track, but modern, with the acid house thing,” said Gillespie.
It was label chief Alan McGee who introduced the band to that scene. "The first acid house thing I went to was in Brighton in 1988," said Gillespie. "We couldn't really make head nor tail of the music or the people, it was still early days, but it was a strange, weird little underground thing. I always remember being quite fascinated by it but not quite getting it."
Eventually, he and the band dove headfirst into it, but on their own terms. They would bring the rock and roll with them, creating their own unique contemporary psychedelic music. "Higher Than the Sun" takes flight in a wash of dub, psych and ambient sounds, making for the flipside of the manic rave part of the equation. "Inner Flight" echoes the title song from the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds as if relaunched in outer space. "Most bands think in black and white," said Gillespie. "We think in Technicolour."
"Come Together" is another hybrid of gospel soul and rock and roll while "Damaged" is a pure and sincere take on late-'60s Rolling Stones. It, along with the jazz-inflected "I'm Coming Down" and the ethereal "Shine Like the Stars," all serve as the 'comedown' after the trip, so to speak, ending the album in sublime fashion.
NME called it "one of this era’s most beautiful, far reaching pieces of musical adventure,“ adding "Screamadelica will be recognized as a musical benchmark for these times." Melody Maker raved as well, saying, "A new language has been created here...the most revolutionary music in ages... Screamadelica is truly, literally WONDERFUL."
Screamadelica reached No. 8 on the U.K. charts and received large support from college radio in the U.S. Its impact on the U.K. music scene cannot be understated, while its relative obscurity in America remains. The timing could have had something to do with it. Another album released that same day somewhat overshadowed everything else in sight -- Nevermind by Nirvana.
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