Primal Scream – XTRMNTR


Part 38 of a series that will run every Friday throughout 2012 as I discuss records that have affected me throughout the years – Flashback Fridays

The truth can be a curious thing. I once knew a person who would follow each opinionated rude statement with the disclaimer “At least I’m honest”. But what is honesty? Really, each one of us is making judgments based upon our life experiences and spinning our opinions back as “the truth” (not talking about Scientific facts). At what point do opinions and perception become indisputable facts? That really isn’t for me to say – my memories of “truth” are tainted for the reasons outlined above. In the early 00’s, Primal Scream released an album that dealt with truth head on with an amazing display of virtuosity.

I actually saw Primal Scream open for Depeche Mode on the Songs of Faith and Devotion tour. The band at that time was quite different from the band that appears on XTRMNTR. At the time (1993), I remember being treated to jams inspired by The Rolling Stones. They were 1 album removed from what was (and is) considered their masterpiece, Screamadelica. Experimentation had gone out the window and it its stead was a competent, workmanlike band. A few things happened to get Primal Scream to where they were in 2000. Mani from The Stone Roses joined the band on bass. Kevin Shields from My Bloody Valentine added guitar throughout the album and helped produce. So the band featured members of The Jesus & Mary Chain (singer Bobby Gillespie was the original drummer and played on the masterpiece, Psychocandy), The Stone Roses, and My Bloody Valentine. A pedigree of outsiders and superstars (in some circles). The 1st record with these things in place was not only perfection – it laid the groundwork for one of the best records of all time (and my personal favorite from Primal Scream).

Shine a light on you, you fade away (album breakdown)

Kill All Hippies – the listener is treated to a child’s voice saying these words “Hello this is gorgeous, anybody out there read me? / 10-4 I read you / My handles gorgeous, pretty vacant, eh / Subvert normality / Fuuuuuck you!” as the bass kicks in and eerie synths propel the song into a place we’ve never been with Primal Scream before. Bobby Gillespie sings over and over “You’ve got the money / I’ve got the soul”. It is an evocative and effective opener.

Accelerator – What if Primal Scream had an alternate life as The Stooges but had Kevin Shields from My Bloody Valentine on guitar? My friend, that is exactly what this song sounds like. Garage rock filtered through extreme guitar f/x and noise, culminating in a melodic white noise. A fist pumping anthem, it’ll bleed into your soul. Perfect. Key lyrics:

Here we come, we’re coming fast
Out the upside into the past
Forced to screaming in my head,
Into the future, into the future

Come on, come on
Hit the accelerator the accelerator
Come on, come on

Exterminator – a dark message permeates this song, but it is sold with a heavy groove and soulful singing. As with other tracks on the record, heavy f/x are in the mix, as the song builds towards a dark finale. Key lyrics:

Insecticide shots for criminal cops
All jails are concentration camps all judges are bought
Everyone’s a prostitute
Everyone’s a prostitute

No civil disobedience
No civil disobedience

So look out kid, you keep it all hid
You think you’re free, but you ain’t free, just free to be hit
You’re an unchannelled frequency
Nobody’s listening
You imbalanced permanent
Nobody’s listening

Swastika Eyes – Much like how The Cure used the word “pornography” to denote violence, here “swastika” is used to denote power that corrupts. It is sold in a club friendly track that has Bobby Gillespie sneering his vocals throughout. Ridiculously catchy, you may be surprised to be singing along to these lyrics:

I’ll vent my spleen I’ll keep my dreams
My flesh my bones my soul I own
My mind’s a weapon immune from infection
Blood in my eyes, my vision is clear
Parasitic your syphilitic
Parasitic your syphilitic

Swastika eyes
You got
Swastika eyes

Pills – Remember in my introduction where I talked about truth? How do you feel when you are face to face with someone who is being deceitful? In our lives we probably say “well, I need to be the bigger person” and move on. Whats going through your brain? Do you play out scenarios where you face this person and say everything you’ve ever wanted to say? This track is an electronic based song with Bobby Gillespie rapping some of the most vitriol filled lyrics ever cut. Very strong beat with eerie soundscapes lending an atmospheric quality. It is my favorite Primal Scream song – period. Colorful metaphors are employed in shocking fashion at the songs conclusion. Key lyrics:

I’m gonna tell you the truth
The truth about you
Truth about you
You never been true
You ain’t nothin
You got nothing to say
Shine a light on you
You fade away

Fucked up you’re a sick
Fuck Fuck Fuck Fuck Fuck Fuck Fuck Fuck Fuck Fuck Fuck Fuck Fuck
Sick Sick Sick Sick Sick Sick Sick Sick

Fuck fuck sick fuck fuck sick fuck fuck sick fuck fuck sick fuck fuck sick fuck fuck sick fuck fuck sick fuck fuck sick fuck fuck.

Blood Money – an instrumental freak out, bass carrying the tune. Horns in the mix giving it a free jazz vibe. Very cinematic in its scope, the way the bass fades away and the mix focuses on the wild horns at times is simply stunning

Keep Your Dreams – an unexpected ballad in the midst of the aggression. A simple electronic beat and catchy guitar refrain set the scene for the 1st minute or so before Bobby Gillespie enters the mix, crooning positive lyrics. The music builds into a crescendo of melodic noise, sounding like something New Order would have done in the early 1980’s. A song that will linger in your mind long after it has ended, it really is an underrated classic. Key lyrics:

I believe in forgiveness
Hate will eat you whole
Bad blood, a lifelong curse,
You’ve got to let it go

Stuck in acid, you will rust
Time will turn your bones to dust
I can muster, let her go
Keep your dreams, don’t sell your soul
Be careful

Insect Royalty – more of a jam based tune, it has a really catchy beat with Bobby Gillespie spitting out somewhat nonsensical lyrics such as “‘I’m a host, I’m a host, / I’m a host, I’m a host  / To the sucker disease  / Parasites, parasites, parasites, parasites  / Parasites in me”. A deeper album cut, but it does stick with the feel of the album.

MBV Arkestra (If They Move, Kill ‘Em) – another instrumental, this one pummels the listener with its beat and sticks to a noisy and repetitive template. The layer of noise builds as the song progresses before a sudden fadeout, leading into…

Swastika Eyes (Chemical Brothers remix) – a curious choice to put a remix of an album track on the same record. This mix takes the bass / loops it, and adds a club friendly beat to the song. It isn’t exactly inessential, but I’d have a hard time arguing that is essential. Whatever the case, it does fit the flow of the record.

Shoot Speed / Kill Light – the title seems to allude to The Velvet Underground’s song / album White Light / White Heat. When the fuzzy guitar kicks in you realize that this is no coincidence. Noisy sound f/x throughout the mix as Gillespie keeps repeating the title of the song. Sometimes simplicity is best AND the easiest. As the song progresses it takes on the feel of a post-punk instrumental classic mixed with a My Bloody Valentine-ish wall of noise – and that’s exactly what it is. A perfect conclusion to the album.

If you had to pick one Primal Scream album to own – this is the one. It really is the only one in the bands discography that sounds like this – angry and danceable with lyrics that cut right to the heart of the matter. For a brief time, Primal Scream were essentially the UK’s version of Rage Against the Machine. This phase was short-lived, but fortunately this album is just as relevant today as it was when it was originally released. Join me next week as I discuss …And Justice For All by Metallica.

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