There is something weirdly retro about this new Primal Scream song – I think it’s the saxophone riff – but the nine minute full-length version of the song is far superior to the four minute radio edit, just weirder enough, and somehow relaxed enough to give Bobby Gillespie’s pop culture auto-critique lyrics the space to be heard in a way that the shorter version doesn’t. This is a truly odd song, and something to appreciate because of that. Even with that terrible chorus.
(I do find the video creepily misogynistic, though.)
One of those occasions where a cover version is so amazingly superior to the original where it’s almost embarrassing, Primal Scream’s mellow, backwards-adoration version of the Jesus and Mary Chain’s “Darklands” is a triumph of performance and, far moreso, production over original source material. Almost everything that makes the dark, sleepy and just-a-little unsettling Scream take on the material so compelling despite its apathy is original to their version, and when you listen to the original afterwards – as I did; I didn’t even know there was a Jesus and Mary Chain song of this name at all until the Scream’s cover – it just sounds kind of weak and shy in comparison.
The Primal Scream version was from the Vanishing Point/XTRMNTR period where the band could do no wrong, and you can tell. It’s just a beautiful take on what is, let’s be honest, not an especially wonderful original. Do do do, do do do.
(Note: I know the above video cuts off the end, but it’s the only YouTube I could find of the original song!)
There’s something wonderfully drunken about this song; more than likely, it wasn’t alcohol that messed Bobby Gillespie up before he recorded the vocals to this song, but nonetheless, this song always sounds like the complaints and pleas of a man gloriously drunk, dumped and trying to talk his way out’ve the trouble he’s surrounded himself with, and I love it for that.
I also love it for the arrangement, with the horns, the grumpy wah-wah guitar and, really low in the mix but definitely there, the piano. It’s a wonderfully old-fashioned, sad song, and even if it ended up getting remixed to hell to become “Loaded” and start a minor musical revolution in the UK, this is still the version I love best.
Well, okay. Maybe I prefer this version, but that’s only because I’m a sucker for women doing acoustic songs, for some reason.
I still love this song from Primal Scream’s “seminal” XTMNTR album from 2000, which does all the MC5 posturing that you’d want but doesn’t forget to try to be awesome in the process.
The guitar solo alone is worth the mental price of admission, but really: the whole thing is pretty spectacular, no matter where or when you slice it. It’s entirely retro, but feels contemporary even twelve years later, purely through force of will and some wonderfully intense performances (There’s something enjoyable about the fact there are actually harmony vocals on the “Come on! Come on!” parts, as if shouty agit-rock needed a Supremes influence in there). The production is suitably grimy – Can you imagine a version of this with a grunge-esque mix or without the feedback, which is a large part of the architecture of the song? – and, really, the only slip-up anywhere is the fade at the end. If ever a song needed to go until it just… broke down, then this is that song. “Into the future! Into the future!” indeed.
There was a period shortly after the release of Primal Scream’s Exterminator when I was having one of those… emotionally intense periods, as the kids don’t say; those times when everything seems charged with too much significance, and many of your personal relationships seem to go to shit all at the same time without any warning or reason. Unsurprisingly, the free-jazz-funk-meets-Quincy-Jones-meets-John-Barry-soundtrack of much of the album, and especially “Blood Money” and “Insect Royalty” seemed incredibly apposite for this whole period – This song, in particular, conjures memories of wandering around Edinburgh somewhat aimlessly as the sun was setting, waiting for… someone that I can’t even remember, now, but knowing that I wasn’t quite myself and not knowing just what to do to change that.
(The bass line and horn section of this song, by the way, are just amazing.)
I mentioned this one yesterday; a remix by David Holmes of a Delakota album track that was just… wonderful, and weirdly central to my shifting musical tastes of the time when it appeared. The original version of “I Thought I Caught” was a relatively straight-forward song, with some nice guitar and a truly bizarre, shrieky chorus, but… really? It’s nothing much to write home about.
The remix, though, is just… space-rock-tastic. It comes from that strange period when Primal Scream and David Holmes had apparently started swapping old jazz fusion records and thinking along similar lines for what to do with their remixes, as long as that meant taking things beyond the usual and more towards extreme de- and re-construction. This remix, along with Kevin Shields’ “If They Move, Kill ‘Em” remix for Primal Scream and David Holmes’ “If You Tolerate This, Then Your Children Will Be Next” remix for the Manic Street Preachers, all stick out in my head as being things that reprogrammed my head slightly, taking my listening from the jaunty, retro-jangle of Britpop or the modern psychedelia of Big Beat to stranger, more out there sounds.
If nothing else, what Holmes does to the bassline in “I Thought I Caught” is worthy of adoration and praise all by itself, I mean, come on.
The soundtrack to a lot of my final years in art school, and the beginning of my explorations into music that was weirder and a lot more out there than the Britpop I’d been listening to while growing up past what was considered to be growing up, Primal Scream’s Vanishing Point was one of those albums that was scattered and a mess in the good way, a mix of multiple influences that doesn’t necessarily hang together in the most coherent way, but nonetheless works, somehow (The album that followed it, XTMNTR, is far more cohesive, but I’m tempted to say not something that’s aged as well as Vanishing Point. YMMV, as the saying goes). Of the various songs on the album, “Get Duffy” was probably the one that stuck in my head in a way that I didn’t expect, pulling all manner of late ’60s/early ’70s sounds – There’s Lalo Schifrin in here, some Sun Ra, some free jazz that I can’t recognize – into something that sounds like it should’ve been played over the opening titles of a movie that would’ve featured washed-out colors and men driving around rainy streets at night.
Most (not all, I don’t think? It’s been awhile since I’ve listened to the album, and I can’t remember) of Vanishing Point was remixed into dub versions for the Echo Dek spin-off album, and while in most cases that just meant lazily turning up the echo and changing the drums, “Get Duffy” – named, by the way, for Martin Duffy, the band’s keyboard player, became “Duffed Up,” which you can easily imagine being the b-side of “Get Duffy” in some imaginary world where that had turned out to be a hit single. The saxes in “Duffed Up” are just amazing: