Screamadelica review by Primal Scream

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  • Released: Sep 23, 1991
  • Sound: 10
  • Lyrics: 10
  • Overall Impression: 10
  • Reviewer's score: 10 Gem
  • Users' score: 8.2 (5 votes)
Primal Scream: Screamadelica

Sound — 10
"Screamadelica" was Primal Scream's defining record, frequenting "classic album" shortlists. Utilizing timbres and rhythms from house, reggae dub, industrial dance and psychedelic music, this album is strongly associated with nineties rave and ecstasy culture and is probably not of interest to less eclectic, more purist rock fans.

"Screamadelica" opens with easily its most conventional and successful song, the single "Movin' on Up." The arrangement, structure and religious lyrical themes owe to gospel music, and during the key change and crescendo, recently deceased Robert "Throb" Young's guitar soloing sends the listener skyward. From there onward, the Scottish/Mancunian outfit get weird. The moods are mostly euphoric on songs like "Come Together" and "Loaded," which has Hawaiian-style slide guitar over what is basically "Sympathy for the Devil" mach 2. In what must have been a deliberate move, "Loaded" is followed by "Damaged," a slow acoustic track, and "I'm Comin' Down," which act as a hangover from the party mood of the previous tracks, adding some needed depth to the album.

There are more industrial moments such as in the breakdown section of "Higher Than the Sun," however Primal Scream's arrangements are mostly organic, without the digitized, compressed feel that plagues so much modern electronic music. The production could definitely be called dated, which is probably down to the very nineties keyboards, but the compositions themselves feel playful and unpredictable compared to today's fodder.

Lyrics — 10
Singer Bobby Gillespie's voice is polarizing. For me, he is definitely a big selling point of the band and is a vocalist purely focused on adding nuance to the songs. His vocals are never strained and often feel little more than a whisper, adding a somehow sinister quality to "Slip Inside This House" and "Higher Than the Sun."

A lot of the songs are actually instrumental, or they sample choirs and laughing. Tracks that do have lyrics tend to conjure vulnerability, which I think is down to Gillespie's delivery. The band are definitely into psychedelia and spirituality, and other than "Movin' on Up," they seem to have little interest in writing traditional anthems, lyrics that connect with people. Instead, words seem to be used for disorientating or rousing effects, such as the film sample that opens "Loaded." "I'm Comin' Down," however, is much more explicitly about the party lifestyle.

Overall Impression — 10
Screamadelica could appeal to rockers who love the later Beatles records, such as Magical Mystery Tour, and especially those who enjoy recreational drug use. Every song stands on its own merits and the arc of the album also works - absorbed as a whole, it is a real palette cleanser that could change the way someone thinks about songwriting and encourage experimentation. I can understand accusations of the album being dated, however I think it is a landmark in its genre much like Massive Attack's "Blue Lines," and therefore acts as an inescapable reference point for rock bands looking to go electronic.

Listening to the album in 2014 has reminded me how little regard there is for grooves in contemporary guitar music. In the past we had Primal Scream, the Stone Roses, Beck et al, artists who had grown up on punk, the Beatles and the Rolling Stones but also drew influence from reggae dub, making their music spacey and danceable for the clubs and the druggies. This scene appears to have died in the mainstream; no one has really taken up the mantle of Prodigy, Fatboy Slim or this band. Fun electronic music is definitely out there, but VH1 won't play it anymore.

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