Album Audit: Primal Scream

From their early flower-power influences to embracing rock’n’roll and electronica, Primal Scream have kept us on our toes for the better part of 30 years. With a December tour just announced, we thought it’d be prime time to reacquaint ourselves with their back catalogue, ordering their nine albums from worst to best.

9) Sonic Flower Groove – 1987

“Dandelion fluff” is how Melody Maker described Primal Scream’s 1987 debut, and from the jangly opening chords of ‘Gentle Tuesday’ it’s not hard to see why. While the band would later embrace the raw power of rock’n’roll, Sonic Flower Groove is the safe, almost genteel product of a flower-power binge. Bobby Gillespie later admitted to being disappointed with not being able to recreate Love’s 1967 classic Forever Changes, but they sure gave it a red-hot go. The album cost 100,000 pounds and a couple original members to make (Gavin Skinner and Jim Beattie left shortly after its release). ‘Love You’ is the album’s forgotten gem, recalling the smacked-out doo-wop of Gillespie’s previous band, The Jesus and Mary Chain. – Darren Levin

8) Riot City Blues – 2006

The highest charting album of the band’s career Riot City Blues eschewed the hypnotic electronica of XTMNTR in favour of one dimensional blues guitar and 4/4 drums. While many critics dismissed Primal’s eighth record as a last ditch attempt to cash in on the garage-fuelled early noughties Riot retained a playful and infectious charm throughout. If you can forgive the blatant Exile On Mainstream rips and Bobby’s inexplicable American twang, ‘Dolls’ (featuring Alison Mosshart) and ‘Country Girl’ are both undeniable stand-outs on the curveball of Primal’s career. – Sarah Smith

7) Give Out But Don’t Give Up – 1994

Following-up the ground-breaking Screamadelica with something as equally unique was never going to be easy. Add to the equation some fairly heavy habits for recreational drugs (in this case heroin) and it’s amazing an album got made at all. The influences (The Rolling Stones, Parliament/Funkadelic) are blatant and at times is sounds as though the band doesn’t really care – ‘Funky Jam’ really? It’s been said that Give Out But Don’t Give Up brought Primal Scream as close to splitting up as they’ve ever got. It’s a mark of their character that they managed to get out of such a heavy nosedive so well. – Michael Hartt

6) Beautiful Future – 2008

A return to form for Primal, mashing together all the sounds that served them so well in the past: acid-house, electronica, and a giant slab of brit-pop. Bobby was back at his most acerbic, commenting on everything from class-wars to Iraq, and the Rolling Stones were nowhere to be heard. Instead the band enlisted the likes of Josh Homme, CSS’s Lovefoxx and Bloc Party producer Paul Epworth to “modernise” their sound. While the album certainly had its lower ebbs for every one-dimensional slugger (‘Suicide Bomb’) there was a pulsating punk banger (Necro Hex Blues’); for every tub-thumping anthem (‘Zombie Man’), a great big dollop of reverb-soaked psychedelia (Fleetwood Mac cover ‘Over and Over’). It was an album of mostly hits and some misses, but one that cemented their relevance and reignited the fire two decades after their formation. – Sarah Smith

5) Primal Scream – 1989

If Sonic Flower Groove was their love letter to the psychedelic ‘60s, 1989’s Primal Scream was all about – for lack of a better term – getting their rocks off. The band’s three remaining members – Bobby Gillespie, Andrew Innes and Robert “Throb” Young – decamped to the UK south coast and began working on some material with a harder edge. “It was just the three of us left and we just wanted to get up on stage, play Les Pauls through Marshalls and fucking destroy,” Gillespie told Uncut. Signposting the swagger of Give Out But Don’t Give Up (1994), Primal Scream wavers between soulful ballads (‘You’re Just Dead Skin To Me’, ‘Jesus Can’t Save Me’) and their take on Detroit punk (‘Gimme Gimme Teenage Head’ references the Stooges ‘Search And Destroy’). Probably best known for ‘I’m Losing More Than I’ll Ever Have’, which later morphed into breakthrough single ‘Loaded’ from Screamadelica. – Darren Levin

4) Evil Heat – 2002

Thematically and musically, Vanishing Point, XTRMNTR and this album work as a trilogy. Released in 2002, it takes the hard electronica angle to its zenith on tracks like ‘Miss Lucifer’, ‘A Scanner Darkly’ and ‘Detroit’. ‘Rise’ had originally been called ‘Bomb The Pentagon’ but was changed after 9/11. Robert Plant, Jim Reid from The Jesus & Mary Chain, Kevin Shields and, erm, Kate Moss all make appearances. Album closer ‘Space Blues #2’, a follow up to a song by his previous band Felt, is the only track to feature the band’s keyboard genius Martin Duffy on vocals. – Michael Hartt

3) Vanishing Point – 1997

Play this album back-to-back with its predecessor, Give Out But Don’t Give Up, and you could swear it was written by a different band. The ambition to be “the Stones of the ‘90s” is gone; in its place, an alternative soundtrack to the 1971 movie of the same name featuring music born out of improvisation with leanings towards krautrock, dub and psychedelia. The record marks the first “Scream Team” outing for recently retired Stones Roses bassist Mani and his presence was immediately obvious thanks to the pulverising bass line on ‘Kowalski’. – Michael Hartt

2) Screamadelica – 1991

Primal Scream ecstatically embraced the acid house scene after DJ Andrew Weatherall remixed their track ‘I’m Losing More Than I’ll Ever Have’ into rave hit ‘Loaded’. The band ditched their early indie rock sound and, lifting a quote from the Wattstax festival soundtrack, informing us that, “Gospel, and rhythm and blues, and jazz. All those are just labels. We know that music is music.” The loved-up result was a kaleidoscopic album of spaced-out dub (‘Higher Than the Sun (A Dub Symphony in Two Parts)’), joyous soul (‘Movin’ on Up’) and house anthems (‘Don’t Fight It, Feel It’). The record defined an era and saw the band crowned as winners of the first Mercury Prize, ahead of Bobby Gillespie’s old band Jesus and Mary Chain. – Tom Mann

1) XTRMTNR – 2000

Released in the first month of the first year of the new century, the Scream’s magnum opus found the band in an aggressive mood laying waste to the previous decade of laddish Brit-pop. Speed was a key ingredient as the band railed against war, corporate greed, oppression and fear with a breakneck soundtrack of punk, electronica, hip-hop, jazz, distorted krautrock and a helping hand from New Order’s Bernard Sumner, The Chemical Brothers, and My Bloody Valentine’s Kevin Shields. The blank poetry of the track list tells the story with ‘Kill All Hippies’, ‘Accelerator’, ‘Exterminator’, ‘Pills’, ‘Blood Money’ and ‘Shoot Speed/Kill Light’ jostling for space with two versions of ‘Swastika Eyes’. – Tom Mann


FasterLouder presents Primal Scream:

Monday 3rd December – The Tivoli , Brisbane

Wednesday 5th December – Enmore Theatre, Sydney

Friday 7th December – The Palace Theatre, Melbourne

Sunday 9th December – HQ, Adelaide

Tuesday 11th December – Astor Theatre, Perth

Tickets on sale Friday 7th September.