I’d been planning an AOTW to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Primal Scream’s Screamadelica this year. The BBC have just given it the Classic Albums treatment, so I thought I’d post something now, and encourage anyone with a vague interest to watch it on iPlayer as soon as possible.
Not many albums are perfect. This one is – from the title and the cover artwork, to the sequencing (I’ll come back to the sequencing), to the way it both captures the spirit of the times and still sounds fresh as anything.
How did it happen? Late ’80s Primal Scream were a deeply unfashionable bunch of leather-clad punk rockers. But they had an unlikely fan in the shape of a young acid house DJ called Andy Weatherall. He’d never been in a recording studio before, but the band invited him to remix a song off their previous album, called I’m Losing More Than I’ll Ever Have. The brief: “fucking destroy it.”
He did. And created an instant classic. Not much of the original remains – the bass, a piano loop, some horns brought to the forefront. In place of Bobby Gillespie’s vocal, there’s a sample from a Peter Fonda film: “We wanna be free to do what we wanna do. And we wanna get loaded. And we wanna have a good time.”
It’s fair to say those words struck a chord with a few hundred thousand young people in 1990. And at this point, we should mention Ecstasy. Because this is an E album through and through, and such a coming together of musical worlds simply wouldn’t have happened without it. (This helps explain why, aged 13, I didn’t really get the dancey parts of Screamadelica. I do now.)
You could argue – in fact, it would be hard not to – that the album follows the trajectory of an Ecstasy trip. It doesn’t hurt that it kicks off with “Movin’ On Up”, a perfect gospel pastiche and surely one of the great album openers. Things carry on coming up nicely with an interpretation of The 13th Floor Elevators’ “Slip Inside This House” and dancefloor magnet “Don’t Fight It, Feel It” (“What’s this crap?”, I remember thinking at the time). Then we’re onto a blissed-out trip with The Orb’s mix of “Higher Than The Sun” (drug songs don’t come much more blatant, or better) and the instrumental “Inner Flight”, before the full on hug-a-stranger euphoria of “Come Together” and “Loaded”.
That high can’t possibly last – but the comedown is exquisite. First we get the gorgeously sad (and under-rated) “Damaged” – produced by Rolling Stones producer Jimmy Miller and, frankly, the best Stones ballad ever. That’s followed by the self-explanatory “I’m Comin’ Down”, with its freeform sax and closing Paris, Texas sample, and the woozy return of “Higher Than The Sun” as a “dub symphony” with Jah Wobble on bass. When closing track “Shine Like Stars” shimmers in, it feels like you’ve drifted off to heaven.
The funny thing is, I wouldn’t particularly call myself a Primal Scream fan. I’ve not paid much attention to their subsequent albums – I like a lot of what I’ve heard, but can’t fully shake the (possibly unfair) suspicion that they’re actually a bunch of derivative chancers who somehow struck lucky. I suspect Andy Weatherall is the true visionary here, but I don’t own anything else he’s done either – I’m still not really a fan of “dance” music.
However it came about, Screamadelica is a masterpiece. Unquestionably a 10 out of 10. I’m sure everyone here agrees …
… don’t you?