‘Consistency’ has never been a word to associate with Primal Scream. Creatively impatient and wilfully obtuse, they’ve rarely stayed still from one release to the next. It’s an admirable ethos to adopt, but it can lead to its fair share of duds. How can the act responsible for 1997’s genuinely awesome ‘Vanishing Point’ also have delivered 2008’s ‘Beautiful Future’, a record so utterly limp it’s hard to even recall it? Did the band behind ‘Kill All Hippies’ really serve up ‘Country Girl’ only six years later? Such contradictions are what make them one to cherish and the reason why we all keep coming back to see what they’ve done this time.
With 2013’s ‘More Light’ having veered towards the sonic onslaught end of their repertoire with some success, it might be reasonable to suppose that its follow up would be somewhere closer to the mainstream. ‘Chaosmosis’, despite its grim title, is certainly an album designed to be embraced. The subject matter may be preoccupied with emotional separation and the complexities of sustaining relationships, but a good proportion of this record was built with dancing in mind.
Primal Scream have a habit of defaulting to simple, almost by-number choruses when in this mode. Never especially complex, it’s best not to spend too long poring over those refrains or the penchant for frequent repetition and just let the insistent melodies do their work. Sustained exposure to these songs erodes any initial cynicism and Bobby Gillespie’s all-or-nothing approach still has that irresistible allure. Opener ‘Trippin’ On Your Love’ comes on like its 1990 all over again, its Haim-assisted chorus and bleepy backdrop pushing it well out of pastiche. Its breakdown ushers in the line “Stare into the void too long, it stares back into you,” and any sense of things being a little too sugary sweet quickly evaporates.
‘(Feeling Like A) Demon Again’ pairs an uneasy lyric with airy synths and a robotic ‘80s beat. Gillespie inhabits a distraught character unable to stop their destructive behaviour while the band craft a beguiling sonic wash around him. It’s one of the album’s slow-burning highlights, the delicate synth deployment across many of these tracks becoming increasingly endearing over time. ‘100% Or Nothing’ is Haim’s second appearance on ‘Chaosmosis’ and it comes out of the blocks with a neatly unsettling guitar chime across its chorus that restates the band’s impeccable capacity for dark, disorienting pop.
‘Autumn In Paradise’ abandons any attempt at subtlety when it comes to gently borrowing aspects of New Order’s sound, shuffling along with a Factory catalogue number only just out of sight. ‘When The Blackout Meets The Fallout’ feels like their ‘XTRMNTR’ incarnation popping back for a sub-two minute disco reboot and, while a little diverting in such company, it’s all a rather glorious folly.
‘Carnival Of Fools’ is built around a naggingly insistent piano line and a simplistic synth stomp, but its real strength is a some neat double-tracking of the vocal. A lop-sided, bleary-eyed nugget, it feels like new ground for a band who have famously been pretty much everywhere. The same could be said of ‘I Can Change’, on which Gillespie near-whispers an account of detachment from the depths atop a reedier synth line that belongs in the early hours.
The album’s centre features an odd couple. Firstly, the gloriously delicate ‘Private Wars’, a brief and sparse acoustic piece with more talk of change and then early single ‘Where The Light Gets In’, a duet with Sky Ferreira that never quite manages to sound as effortless as one suspects it should. Still, it has a fairly enormous chorus and it serves as quite a neat summary of where Primal Scream are in 2016. They’re still pushing on, still evolving their sound despite having at least one foot in the past and still obsessed with finding decent melodies. As a result, they make missteps - some more catastrophic than others - but they would seemingly always rather try it and see than worry what anyone might think.
‘Chaosmosis’ from its title onwards is endearingly flawed, but the sense of communal enjoyment with which they are synonymous radiates from a large swathe of this material and it remains pretty addictive.
Words: Gareth James
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