Recently, I had the misfortune to read the misinformed rant of musical wannabe online, who dismissed out of hand, one of the most popular genres of music, indie music. To this poor misguided soul, this genre of music is all rubbish, whiney boring music. To them, Keisha and Katy Perry are the saviors of music. So it’s good that the future of music is in the safe hands. Although I’d suggest it isn’t safe to let someone as musically blinkered and uneducated near a computer keyboard. By dismissing indie music, this person, dismisses some of the most successful bands of the past thirty years, all of whom started life as indie bands. The Smiths, R.E.M., New Order, U2, Oasis and the band this article is about, Primal Scream. All these bands, originally, were indie bands. Obviously, some outgrew their “indie” statues, and U2 and R.E.M. can no longer be called indie bands. Primal Scream however, are a band that have crossed the musical genres, producing a wide range of albums. In the early days, they were an indie band with a penchant for rock ‘n’ roll music. By the time of 1991’s seminal album Screamadelica, they’d fused indie and dance music. Later on Echo Dek saw them release a dub album and in 2006 they returned to their rock ‘n’ roll roots with Riot City Blues. The album that followed, Beautiful Future, released in July 2008, saw the band fuse rock ‘n’ roll, electro, pop and soul music. Produced by Bjorn Yttling, with several tracks recorded in Sweden, the album saw a number of guest artists join Primal Scream. This included Lovefoxxx, Josh Homme and Linda Thompson. Beautiful Future was the last album the band recorded, and fans eagerly await their next album. Until then, I’ll revisit Beautiful Future and tell you just what the album sounds like.

Beautiful Future opens with the title track, which I always thought should’ve been released as a single. When the band were promoting the album, it was a track that always went down well with audiences. It bursts powerfully and brightly into life, with drums and percussion, Mani’s bass, guitars and synths driving, the track along, before Bobby’s vocal enters. When it does, he gives a dramatic rendition of the lyrics. His voice is much quieter, not as strong as on other tracks, but perfect for the lyrics which promise everything material. Meanwhile, the arrangement has the power of a juggernaut, albeit one that combines power, melodies and rhythms. It’s a brilliant combination hugely powerful drums, driving guitars, synths and not forgetting Mani’s masterful bass playing. During the track, hooks are plentiful, on probably, the catchiest, most melodic, track on the album. Wave upon wave of music rises and falls during a track that mixes the best of rock ‘n’ roll, pop and even some dirty electro sounds. Here, Bobby and the band do what they do brilliantly,  producing some brilliant good time rock ‘n’ roll music.

Can’t Go Back begins with a frantic mixture of rhythm section, guitars and synths combining to give Bobby a backdrop that is both lightning fast and power personified. It’s an arrangement that picks you up, and sweeps you along in its wake. While Bobby sings, the rest of the band provide equally fast whooping backing vocalists. Like the opening track, it’s an arrangement that’s powerful, but here it’s driven along by the whole band playing at breakneck speed. Guitars, rhythm section and keyboards all contribute to both the sound and the power, with the rhythm section providing the track’s heartbeat, and Andrew Innes’ guitar playing a crucial factor. Bobby meanwhile, manages to keep up with the band and gives an energetic vocal performance that matches the energy created by the rest of the band. Together, they create an energetic, powerful track that drives furiously along, bringing to mind Iggy Pop and The Stooges and MC5, two of the band’s heroes. 

Drums and percussion play at the start of Uptown, before Mani’s bass enters, and Bobby’s bright and joyous vocal appears. The track lacks the power of the previous track, replacing it with a spartan, yet lush, soulful, sound. This is thanks to Bobby’s vocal, which is multi-tracked and provides backing vocals. As the track progresses, the arrangement fills out, strings sweeping in and almost a house beat accompanying his vocal. Occasionally, various sound effects enter, with handclaps a constant presence. Throughout the track, Mani’s bass playing is fantastic, providing the track’s heartbeat. However, what makes this such a fantastic track, are the lush, sweeping strings reminiscent of Gamble and Huff’s Philadelphia sound and Bobby’s atmospheric, almost whispery vocal, as he sings some great lyrics. 

The Glory of Love opens with percussion and dark, dirty synths combining with Mani’s bass and guitar before Bobby sings. His vocal is similarly dark, as synths squelchy explode, while handclaps and backing vocalists accompany his vocal. Like previous tracks, it’s a much fuller arrangement, but here it’s a mixture of old school synths, electro and driving rhythm section that provide the backdrop for Bobby’s vocal. However, the combination of bright percussion that sits above the rest of the arrangement, provides a contrast for the darkness of the rest of arrangement. Overall, this track reminds me of some of Lou Reed’s earlier material, given an intriguing, modern, makeover by Primal Scream. 

Synths broody and dark, reverberate and are then joined by dramatic, booming drums, screaming guitars and a driving bass as Suicide Bomb opens. Together, they combine to produce a looming, dark almost threatening backdrop to accompany Bobby. Once he sings, it’s apparent, that he’s picked up on the atmosphere, and decides to give a broody, enigmatic vocal. This he does well, maybe remembering his days with the Jesus and Mary Chain and using this as a reference point for his vocal. Behind him, the arrangement moodily chugs along, the tempo slow, the drums still booming as the guitars and bass combine powerfully. For nearly six minutes, a melange of screaming, screeching guitars, pounding and booming drums, helped along by synths and bass help Bobby to produce some dark, moody and atmospheric music, that fuses some old style rock ‘n’ roll licks with indie and garage music masterfully.

After a couple of songs with a darker sound, Primal Scream return to what they do best, and produce some good time rock ‘n’ roll music on Zombie Man. It bursts into life with the band singing, before the guitars and rhythm section are unleashed. The guitars are bright, with almost a country feel and sound to some of the licks, while the drums pound and Mani’s bass is fast and accurate, as it sits at the bottom of the mix. Bobby Gillespie sounds as if he’s having a ball on this track. It’s as if he’s been rejuvenated after the darkness of two previous tracks. Likewise, the rest of the band are similarly joyous, producing some really uplifting backing vocals. Together with a great arrangement, Primal Scream produce a similar good time rock ‘n’ roll sound to The Faces in their pomp, albeit with a different style of music. On this track, the band unite brilliantly producing one of album’s highlights.

Beautiful Summer opens with a sound that manages to sound both dark and bright at the same time. However, quickly, the track decides in true rock ‘n’ roll fashion, to follow the path of darkness. The drums are quick and sharp, almost a military tempo, as guitars and bass combine to produce a moody sound that’s the polar opposite to the previous track. Bobby’s vocal is a mixture of drama and darkness, as he sings the lyrics. The lyrics however, are some of the best on the album, about an old lover, whose now gone, and the summer they spent together. Later in the track, the guitars chime brightly, trying to lighten the sadness caused by Bobby’s lyrics. They manage this briefly, but overall, it’s a track that’s drenched in sadness, with the drama and darkness of Bobby’s vocal and the arrangement perfect for the lyrics.

Lovefoxxx join the band on I Love To Hurt (You Love To Be Hurt), a track that begins with dark, sleazy sounding synths and percussion playing before Bobby sings. The lyrics are gritty, referencing the pain that can be caused by love or in the name of love, and Bobby duets with Lovefoxxx. Waves of music sweep in, with synths at the heart of everything, various sound effects making their presence felt. As this electro influenced track progresses, driven along by synths, ably assisted by Mani’s bass. As the track ends, it’s a totally different track to anything else on the album. Most people who haven’t heard the track wouldn’t recognize this as one by Primal Scream. However, as a band, they’ve never been afraid to be innovative and throughout their career, changed musical directions many times. This track was very much a leap into the unknown, and although very different from the other tracks, works really well.

Linda Thompson assists Bobby with the vocals to Over and Over, which sees Bobby give a really tender vocal, accompanied by atmospheric guitar and keyboards. The tempo is slow, the arrangement subtle, and when Linda sings, her voice is equally tender as they sing the lyrics which are about love. There’s a spacey sound to this track, it seems to gently float along, with the guitars echoing and chiming in the background. Likewise, the drums are played subtly, and nothing is allowed to overpower a really beautiful, gentle and tender vocal from Bobby and Linda. 

Beautiful Future closes with Necro Hex Blues, which features Josh Homme. It’s a track that’s the diametric opposite to the lovely, gentle, Over and Over, and energetically bursts into life with guitars, synths and rhythm section combining powerfully, to drive the track along. The tempo is lightning fast, the arrangement loud as Bobby sings, his vocal almost dwarfed by the power of the arrangement. Josh Homme accompanies Bobby, while glorious guitar solos, scream and screech soaring high, while the bass rumbles and drums powerfully, pound. The synths help fill the sound out even more, as if that was needed. Here, Primal Scream show that they’re one of the last great rock bands, as they produce an arrangement that’s a marriage of speed, power and really good musicians. It’s the perfect track to close the album, and a perfect reminder of just how good a rock ‘n’ band Primal Scream are.

On Beautiful Future, Primal Scream resisted the temptation to stick to what they do best, and release an album of good time rock ‘n’ roll music like they could’ve done and many bands would be tempted to do. Instead, they decided to be innovative and take their music in new directions. This worked really well, and on the album, a mixture of styles and influences are apparent. There is everything from good time rock ‘n’ roll music, to sleazy electro, pop and soul. This demonstrates their musical versatility and a drive to reinvent their music. It was also quite brave to be as innovative and release an album of such diverse songs. Since Beautiful Future, Primal Scream have remastered and rereleased their masterpiece, the seminal Screamadelica, which celebrated its twentieth birthday this year, and the band have been touring that album. However, there is no sign of a new studio album from them, and one can only wonder, that when it’s released, what musical direction the band will take next. If it’s as good an album as Beautiful Future, they’ll have done well, and if it’s anywhere near as good as Screamadelica they’ll be hailed as the real saviors of music. Whichever it is, it’s not bad for what once were an indie band? Standout Tracks: Beautiful Future, Uptown, Zombie Man and Necro Hex Blues.


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