Let’s directly start with a disclaimer. No, I don’t want to glorify the consumption of drugs in any form. Drugs got the potential to ruin your life, get you addicted and harm you if not taken in responsible form. Well, the question whether there’s actual such a thing like ‘responsible drug consumption’ is a whole different chapter here. So, obviously you don’t need to consume any substances to enjoy Screamadelica by Primal Scream. I never did while listening to it. Some might argue it’s the better experience but one thing remains crucial – it’s almost impossible to understand the album’s importance and its effect without addressing the circumstances and the scene it was born into. I mean, the term ‘acid house’ already implies the involvement of chemical substances, right? To this day it’s still quite fascinating that the third full-length by the Scottish rock band around leader Bobby Gillespie is still their most influential album – because even in the very diverse and hard-to-define-discography of their almost forty-year-long career this whole album remains quite a special one. Before and after its release the band provided a wide range – from dirty blues rock to gentle songwriting, to dirty electronic rock and slick pop. But in the middle we got that timeless masterpiece that won the first ever Mercury Prize in 1992 and sold over three million copies world wide. And now in the wake of its 30th anniversary it’s still such a joy to witness its irresistible yet quite special vibe. It hasn’t aged a day, I must say.
Over the course of eleven tracks and a little more than an hour the Scottish band unfolds a wild yet infectious mix of groovy psychedelic house-infected pop, blues rock, a bit gospel, trippy downbeat vibes and many other forms of music. On paper, Screamadelica doesn’t follow a clear path at the beginning, instead it bounces back and fourth between extremes. The most interesting ones here are the uplifting opening track Movin’ On Up and the melancholic Country ballad Damaged, the only tracks where the band worked with producer Jimmy Miller (famous for his work with The Rolling Stones in the late 60s and early 70s). While technically being really good songs they actually don’t really fit to the rest of the album. Maybe the band wanted to brag a bit about their versatility. However, they do not harm the album’s listening experience. For the rest of the album the band gave their music into the hands of engineer Hugo Nicolson and – more importantly – acid house DJ Andrew Weartherall. The latter choice might be the crucial one here because of the way Weatherall approached the music. He wasn’t interested in radio-friendly song structures – instead he deconstructed and rearranged the songs of Primal Scream in a very unusual way on this album, letting groove and flow dictate the direction instead of traditional song structures. With his sensibility for psychedelic dancefloor vibes and his involvement in the blooming 80s acid house scene in England, Weatherall had this unique understanding of stretching a song, looping certain elements and create an atmosphere where time itself becomes relative and even the band had to follow the unstoppable force of the groove.
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Living the utopian dream
So, what about the drugs now? Well, following a few experiences with chemical substances over the past years (no details here) I only realized how the band accidentally might have created a certain drug trip chronology on this album, delivering songs for all sorts of states, especially when it comes to MDMA and Ecstasy. There’s the initial kick that starts it all, the energetic euphoria, followed by the transcendental moments towards the middle of the album where Primal Scream and Andrew Weatherall invite the listeners to get lost in the sound and groove of the music before also giving the potential calm-down after the rush a soundtrack with I’m Comin’ Down in which Gillespie repeatedly states “I’m coming down, I can’t face the dawn / I’m coming down, I feel too far gone” On top of it a wild jazzy saxophone is providing an untameable solo in the background. It’s followed by another final yet already slowed down finale in the form of the second part of the Higher Than The Sun dub symphony before Shine Like Stars works as a fitting lullaby to end that wild night out. In-between start and finish you are invited to experience euphoria, unconditional love and a very physical form of music experience via the hypnotic groove of the album. You stop asking questions about genres and how this can all work out – you go with the flow, you follow the path the music provides and find bliss by letting go. And once again – you are strongly invited to do that sober and let the music be the actual trip. It’s good enough to master that difficult task on its own, believe me.
Screamadelica had a perfect blend between rock, electronica, dance, psychedelic and a few other influences. It’s that timeless energy, that slick groove, that utopian positive spirit that carries the album – even three decades later. Maybe now, with a planet in current crisis mode, we’re even more in desperate need for a sound and a vision like the one from 1991 when the world – following the end of the Cold War – was in a brief state of euphoria and ‘anything will work out eventually’. There are multiple reasons to escape reality and broaden your horizon. Whatever path you choose, please do it wisely. But one thing remains for sure: Music remains the finest, most reliable and healthy form of drug addiction. It’s records like this that still keep an old junkie like me excited and I hope a new generation is ready to embrace it as well because the infamous words the anonymous young fella states at the beginning of Loaded remain as timeless as the rest of the record so it’s up to them to end this article.
“We wanna be free
We wanna be free to do what we wanna do
And we wanna get loaded
And we wanna have a good time
And that’s what we’re gonna do
We’re gonna have a good time
We’re gonna have a party!”
Primal Scream just released a mighty 30th anniversary edition of Screamadelica, featuring plenty of bonus material, alternative takes, remixes and everything you need for your enjoyment. You can get your copy right here. On top of it the band also announced a few selected summer shows for 2022 where they’ll be performing the record in its entire glory.