Primal Scream, Scottish indie/alt rock legends, 36 years young now, have led a varied and bewildering life. Encompassing mid 80’s indie, early 90’s rave scene, challenging electronica, transatlantic rock and most recently straight down the middle pop, they are a band whose new album is always approached with a sense of ‘what’s this gonna be then?’. And that’s exactly how I feel coming face to face with ‘Chaosmosis’, their 11th full length LP. This is Primal Scream’s sobriety album, it’s title referencing French psychotherapy.
Somewhat unexpectedly we’re faced with Madchester in full on Happy Mondays/Soup Dragons mode on opener ‘Trippin’ On Your Love’. Bobby Gillespie is joined by Haim on vocals on a track that genuinely sounds as if it came from 1990. It’s high octane pop and it’s fabulous. Surely the whole album won’t be so specifically retro? Well no, cause immediately we trip 10 years further back in time with the synth pop of ‘(Feeling Like A) Demon Again’. It’s so 80’s it could be La Roux. It’s a cyclical song about a relationship being battered through chemical (as in drugs man) warfare. It may sound sugary to the ears but lyrics like ‘Lost my love, became a ghost, Hurt the ones I love the most’ paint the true horror of the situation. Cheery stuff! ‘I Can Change’ lyrically is the optimistic reply to this, and it grooves on a Roxy pop vibe, with Bobby G even attempting a Bryan Ferry vibrato. So far it’s fairly retro sounding but then even when at their harshest and most inventive Primal Scream have always drawn from the multi coloured tapestry of rocks history.
‘100% or Nothing’ opens with a continuing synth pop vibe but is quickly slashed away by buzzsaw guitars, more Haim backing vocals and more brightside struggling relationship words, ‘The anti-depressants don’t anti-depress’. And then ‘Private Wars’ chimes in, all modern brit folk, and it becomes clear we’re delving into the most diverse Primal Scream album yet. I really like this track, and even with a lyric like ‘Death in all you taste’ there’s a genuinely more hopeful vibe here. Musically unexpected and a true wonder.
‘Where The Light Gets In’, a Bobby Gillespie and Sky Ferreira (American singer/songwriter, model and actress) duet, returns to bright, synth pinned pop, catchy as hell and again a lyric of contrasting highs and lows. It’s followed by a much more hard-core electronica sound on ‘When The Blackout Meets the Fallout’, a decaying story of crumbled love, a sexless relationship cast adrift in the slums of romance. It’s short, sharp and snappy and in its own way as enticing as anything else here. ‘Carnival of Fools’ unites some of the albums influences in one song, single finger synthpop riff, dancey keys and a killer hook. And this quick-fire album is all of a sudden on the home straight, seemingly almost as soon as it’s begun.
‘Golden Rope’ uses another Scream staple, the Stones riff and groove. And the Happy Mondays are again evoked in the ‘Hallelujahs’ of the chorus, there’s even a sax solo before a heavenly ‘Hallelujah’ choral precedes the final part of the song, a softly sung repeated ‘I know that there is something wrong with me’ which in turn is carried out with a clattering drum beat. And then finally ‘Autumn in Paradise’ is hauled in alongside as it should be on this album, a simple synth riff. It’s not ending on a positive note either, this is as bright an ‘all is lost’ song that you could ever wish to hear. You could even imagine it as a late Abba number without too much effort. ‘I’ve got nothing left to steal, There was something when you came here, there’ll be nothing when you leave’ lyrically tops the album perfectly. There’s oodles of despair and loss, broken love and divorce all wrapped up in as polished a Primal Scream album as there ever could be. It’s good stuff, an easy and uncomfortable listen all at one. That’s the chaos I suppose. A melodic paradox.