All the stars were aligned for the new Primal Scream album. Their last album, More Light, was slightly disappoint content-wise but had some standout moments, including the Kevin-Shields-inclusive(!!!) ‘2013’. It promised a more invigorated Primal Scream after a few years in the wilderness. Then the first single from Chaosmosis dropped, the stone-cold banger ‘Where The Light Gets In’, featuring Sky Ferreira teaming up surprisingly well with Bobby Gillespie, his slurs countered with a fresh and eager voice. It’s one of the best songs of the year so far, but unfortunately it does not represent this album as a whole. Primal Scream have often written great pop songs, and this is a ‘pop’ album, but it’s rarely interesting and more fun would be gathered from listening to any other dance song in the top 40. It tries way too hard to straddle the line between pop accessibility and indie ‘authenticity’, but it just comes off as really up-it’s-own-arse dance music. The guests either outshine the Scream completely (Ferreira) or are used as minor touches (Haim and Rachel Zeffira).
A lot of it comes down to Gillespie. He no longer sounds like he can compete with the lively instrumentals and works much better on the quieter songs, such as ‘I Can Change’ and ‘Private Wars’. He’s repeating the same lines he’s been saying for years ‘So high, we can’t get over it’ along with the counter of ‘The antidepressants don’t anti depress’. That second line might have had some impact if Gillespie sang it like he meant it, and he’s never been one for singing with gusto, but now eleven albums in, it’s getting tedious. Primal Scream have reinvented themselves many times before, so Chaosmosis feels like a stepping stone record where they figure out what they want to do next, but couldn’t they just take a few more years, polish up a new sound and come back stronger? When Primal Scream go for an aggressive track like ‘When The Blackout Meets The Fallout’, which could easily fall onto XTRMNTR with its apocalyptic techno, it actually works quite well. Gillespie livens up on the chorus, where he repeats the title track over and over again like an insane preacher. Then the song just ends. Just like that. Less than two minutes. Sure, Gillespie gets through a lot of topics in that time – corruption, dystopia, sex – but there’s so much that could have done with the track. Maybe the short shock song works, but it doesn’t revive the corpse.
‘Trippin On Your Love’ sounds like a dancey sister to ‘Movin’ On Up’. It begins the album well enough, if you can ignore the tired ‘tripping’ references again. Haim contribute backing vocals to both ‘Trippin On Your Love’ and ‘100% Or Nothing’ and work surprisingly well as Gillespie’s angelic alternative to Gillespie, who wisely takes a backseat on ‘Trippin…’. It’s a fairly innocent pop song if you ignore that fact that Gillespie is likening the love that he has to a new drug that won’t hurt him as much as his old ones, which definitely did some damage (he got clean a couple of years ago). A lot of the lyrics on Chaosmosis are about those addictions that Gillespie had, and the replacements he’s made to fill that hole. He also self-lacerates himself for his weakness, for example on ‘Private Wars’ where he talks about his image as the mouthy frontman with ‘thorns grown in your heart / poisoned from the start’. Then for all of the looking inwards at who he is, Gillespie will chuck in some vague criticism at the elite – ‘Capital has colonised us / It rules and divides us’ – straight out of the teenage Marxist’s handbook. What he’s saying is true, but it’s been said and done already.
‘Where The Light Gets In’ makes this album not worthless and it’s a shining reminder that Primal Scream are still in the business of writing good pop music, but the rest is middling indie-pop. Gillespie knows when to let his guests take over, and those guests are well placed – maybe too well-placed. Ferreira completely runs away with ‘Where The Light Gets In’ and Gillespie can’t keep up with her. She’s on a roll, there’s not a lot that can be done about Ferreira’s career just waiting to explode. As the band behind classics like Screamadelica and XTRMNTR, it’s very disappointing. They’re capable of so much more, and capable of innovating whenever they like at this point. Twenty years ago who would have thought Primal Scream would become another dad-rock band, but they’re settling into a moderate sound that smells an awful lot like Pink Floyd spirit.
Funnel Recommends: Trippin’ On Your Love / Where The Light Gets In / When The Blackout Meets The Fallout