From their psych roots to the rave-pop of Screamadelica, through to the ear-grind of XTRMNTR and beyond, Primal Scream have kept it real. Long Live Vinyl reviews new best-of Maximum Rock ‘N’ Roll.
There’s an ugly sneering towards Primal Scream from some critics – it’s as if Bobby Gillespie’s deep passion for music is something to be mocked. Oh, why can’t he just relax and shut up about The Stooges and listen to Jess Glynne instead?
Wanting to stop people caring is absolute balls. Calling your singles compilation Maximum Rock ‘N’ Roll is one neat riposte: an even better one is sequencing those 31 singles in order and offering it up as a reminder that Primal Scream are one of the most varied bands of their generation.
Gillespie’s explanation to Long Live Vinyl that he and guitarist Andrew Innes generally choose the bangers from their albums as singles makes perfect sense when the Primals’ singles are listened to together. Over the course of two hours, they switch from C86 jangling via rave, rockabilly, country-rock, dub, psychotic dance, hoedowns, prog and Krautrock to a hard-won euphoria. It should be a bewildering mess. That it isn’t is because of the restless energy that’s propelled Gillespie, Innes and their collective’s talents over the past 33 years.
Innes’ view that Maximum Rock ‘N’ Roll should only feature their “serious” singles means there’s no place
for their debut All Fall Down or recent Record Store Day releases Mantra For A State Of Mind and Golden Rope. More debatable is the decision to bisect Volumes 1 and 2 of the vinyl editions seemingly at random, with two singles from 2000’s Xtrmntr on Volume 1 and one on Volume 2.
Yes, the breathless thrum of Accelerator is a terrific way to start an album. But so too would have been Swastika Eyes, one of the most startlingly odd singles to launch an album from a major band since, well, Kowalski from Primal Scream’s previous album Vanishing Point. Xtrmntr is generally regarded as their best album alongside Screamadelica, so from a commercial as well as coherent view, putting all its singles on Volume 2 would have been most sensible.
Nearly 30 years on, the Screamadelica singles still sound remarkable: there have been few better aural trips than Don’t Fight It Feel It or The Orb’s edit of Higher Than The Sun. The switch to the leather-jacketed hedonism of Rocks and Jailbird remains impeccable for capturing nihilistic abandonment, matched later by the goodtime holler of Country Girl. In between, the claustrophobia of Vanishing Point, Xtrmntr and Evil Heat’s singles are as shivering and atmospheric in their own brutal fashion as Loaded.
Recent Scream albums have been comparatively overlooked, but adventurous Sky Ferreira duet Where The Light Gets In and the pure pop suss of 100% Or Nothing suggest Chaosmosis is ripe for reassessment. Only the meandering prog moments from More Light are a misfire, sounding sluggish compared to the explosions firing off around them.
1 Velocity Girl
2 Gentle Tuesday
4 Ivy Ivy Ivy
6 Come Together
7 Higher Than The Sun
8 Don’t Fight It Feel It
9 Movin’ On Up
12 (I’m Gonna) Cry Myself Blind
15 Burning Wheel
16 Swastika Eyes
17 Kill All Hippies
2 Miss Lucifer
3 Autobahn 66
4 Some Velvet Morning (feat. Kate Moss)
5 Country Girl
6 Dolls (Sweet Rock and Roll)
7 Sometimes I Feel So Lonely
8 Can’t Go Back
11 It’s Alright, It’s OK
12 Goodbye Johnny
13 Where the Light Gets In (feat. Sky Ferreira)
14 100% or Nothing