Author: Bruce Jenkins Date Posted:7 January 2022
If time and the music industry have caught up with Primal Scream’s 1991 album Screamadelica, that neither dulls the achievement of that monumental album nor reduces our enjoyment of its grooves and gyrations thirty odd years later.
Formed by the restlessly inventive Bobby Gillespie in Glasgow in the early 1980s, Primal Scream have never followed anything other than their own unique path, covering neo-psychedelic guitar pop on their debut before moving into harder, more thrusting territory with the self-titled follow up. By the end of the decade, singer Gillespie and new guitarist Andrew Innes were captivated by the underground dance scene in the UK and asked DJ Andrew Weatherall to remix one of their songs for the alt-club circuit. That song became "Loaded" and was a hit both with party animals and rock dogs, driving the album it appeared on—Screamadelica—towards major success.
With its garish acid-splatter sleeve, Screamadelica is a difficult album to categorise simply because it covers so many bases. Sometimes we are clearly in rock territory, with Mick Jagger vocals and Exile On Main Street soul roots, at others a pop sensibility shoots up in the melody while a dub reggae undercurrent pulses through your veins. And of course, electronica is part of the DNA. You can dance, dream and bang on the door of the acid house while slashes of techno merge with the rock beats. The best parts sound like the Rolling Stones on acid partying with Lee Scratch Perry at maximum spliff. It’s organised yet rambling, joyous and driving. From the vitamized prance of "Loaded" through the meandering excursion of "Higher than the sun" to the bluesy comedown of "Damaged", this is a lovingly curated celebration of rock music.
History has been kind to Screamadelica. With a perfect 10/10 awarded by NME, five stars from Uncut and four from Mojo, the often fickle British music press united in their love for Primal Scream’s third album. The Allmusic Guide is similarly positive, while Pitchfork gives it 9/10. That’s a lot of big ticks, and the reason can be found in the way those disparate styles and influences are blended into a cohesive whole. Which is perhaps a little surprising, given that NME also described it as the "druggiest album ever". Guess they must have been good drugs.
Influences of a potpourri record such as Screamadelica are tricky to apportion, yet there is no doubt that Daft Punk were paying attention, as were Robbie Chater and his mates (The Avalanches). And people are listening still. Not perhaps with mouths hanging open in disbelief, but certainly with excited appreciation and grins of pleasure. Really, the album could be called Smile-adelica.
© Bruce Jenkins 2022