Primal Scream’s ninth studio album will probably do little more than enshrine them in the musical middle-ground. They seem to have been around for ever – well, at least for the majority of an entire generation’s life-span – but have rarely dominated any musical sphere. They always seem to be on some festival bill or another, but despite plenty of headline slots they never seem to be the main attraction. The release of More Light probably isn’t going to change that.
That is not to say that the album is particularly poor but it’s very much just another (and less effective) Primal Scream album with more of the same adornments; those which work and those which do not. Which, for better or for worse, proves to be business as usual for Bobby Gillespie and the boys. The only immediate problem here, however, is that the album us thirteen tracks long and the majority of them are without much substance. There are elements of gospel, blues, funk, loads of indie guitar textures and musical irreverence which all work very well, but there are very few cohesive songs.
‘2013’ brings the album to life and in amongst the nine minutes of swarming, thick psychedelic brass and flanger pedals you’ll hear Gillespie singing about “twenty-first century kids”, “the establishment” and “getting rich, I guess”. The music is as spirited as ever but the lyrics, which undoubtedly mean something, are slightly too abstract and suppressed to be much more than another layer of instrumentation. This remains a common theme throughout the majority of More Light. ‘River of Pain’ starts well and has the intoxicated swagger of an assured band but is extended by a fairly unnecessary musical collage, which kind of ruins a perfectly good song.
‘Culturecide’, ‘Hit Void’ and ‘Tenement Kid’ are fairly forgettable thanks to the absence of anything resembling a melody. Not that Primal Scream ever produced notable melodies in the first place, but they always had rhythmic and forceful music to give Gillespie the freedom to deliver his stream of consciousness vocals without ever having to be Paul McCartney or anything. ‘Invisible City’ is the first track on the album to have any space in it and it is all the more memorable for it. The brass section is back and adds more life to the music but as has been the case with the album so far, everything else seems to just eventually blend into a sludgy, impenetrable mist.
Everything else on here is, as goes the mid-song refrain from ‘Relativity’, “a fucking mess” until ‘It’s Alright, It’s OK”. This is a pure throwback to ‘Scremadelica’. Just as well it was the first single because nothing else here is likely to win over any new fans or attract people to a festival. But they may thank their extensive and mostly great back catalogue for any headline slots until they can do better than this.