Throughout their four decades in the industry, Primal Scream have dipped and dabbled into a plethora of musical styles, never quite managing to settle on one signature sound. They brought us hedonistic triumphs in Screamadelica (1991), and aggressive political outbursts in XTRMNTR (2000), but it seems that in their latest release they are out to bundle all their prior musical probing into one 70-minute epic.
And it’s thanks to this variety that More Light works, redeeming itself from the largely forgettable Primal Scream predecessors of late. Deeply experimental in sound, the album flits between rock, jazz, blues and electronica, incorporating some healthy additions of sax and sitar along the way. Perhaps it’s down to new bass player Debbie Googe (My Bloody Valentine), or star guest performances from Robert Plant and Kevin Shields, who aid to give it such musical individuality.
Lyrically, however, Bobby Gillespie’s now dated political rants have become somewhat tiresome and uninspiring. Opening track “2013” talks of “21st century slaves”, protesting against the top-heavy political powers of “twen’y thirteen” (repeated endlessly throughout its nine-minute entirety). “Culturecide” and “Hit Void” take on a similar stance, constructed from angry protest lyrics and calls for societal changes.
Many retro rock ‘n’ roll fans would argue that the statements are admirable, but you can’t help but feel that it’s all a conscious effort to conform to their 80s British punk era mindsets. Thankfully, though, someone seems to have distorted Bobby G’s mic, and consequently the majority of the album’s vocals remain slightly muffled, allowing for the far more inspiring instrumental backdrops to dominate.
Second track “River Of Pain” takes on a style of its own, so instrumentally experimental that it’s hard to tell whether it’s musically genius or downright chaotic. Beginning with a deep Spanish-sounding guitar riff and soft hand drumming, its elegant rhythm later shifts into a non-harmonious mess, with a middle section that could be passed as an orchestra tuning up for the brief symphony that follows.
“Relativity” takes on similar peculiarity, with tempo shifts and changes in sound throughout its seven-minute length. Musically, these are the “Paranoid Androids” of a Radiohead album, with their instrumental innovation labelling them as the epics of the record.
During the middle section, the band explores their jazz and blues roots. “Goodbye Johnny” provides us with a chirpy Tango sounding piano opening and a charming saxophone interlude. Meanwhile, “Elimination Blues” is less successful in its sound–despite the help of Robert Plant on vocals. Its slow blues guitar becomes repetitive and dull by the time the song reaches its conclusion.
Yet the album’s closer seems to wrap up the record perfectly. Harking back to the Screamedelica days, “It’s Alright, It’s Ok” is one of those tracks you could’ve sworn you’d heard before. With its gospel backing vocals and “ooh la laa’s”, the resemblance to “Movin’ On Up” is uncanny, reminding us that Primal Scream won’t be abandoning their glory day tendencies just yet.