It has been a typically erratic decade for Primal Scream, incorporating line up and label changes, accompanied by musical output ranging from the fun, but retro artistic dead end of Riot City Blues, to the directionless low point of 2008’s Beautiful Future, where the lack of musical creative inspiration was matched by Bobby Gillespie’s lyric generator seemingly stuck in “junkie”/”hex”/”needle”/”disease” mode.
The sprawling More Light (2013) was a tentative return to more adventurous, broadly psychedelic territory, with hints of past glories, but was hampered by a restrained execution and lack of quality control.
By contrast Chaosmosis finds Primal Scream changing tack again with a “mission statement” (according to pre-release chatter) to create an album of singles, which results in a lean, 38 minute release of predominantly glossy sheened, catchy electro-pop clearly in thrall to New Order.
At its best, as on driving, Funkadelic-quoting, stomper ‘100% or Nothing’, and lead single ‘Where The Light Gets In’, the band create the “ecstatic pop” they were aiming for. On less impressive fare such as limp album closer ‘Autumn in Paradise’, it feels like they have replaced previous default settings (The Stones, ”high energy rock ‘n’ roll”) with a new one.
Things get more interesting when the band deviates from this template. The woozy organ, drum machine and falsetto soul croon of ‘I Can Change’ brings to mind a hybrid of More Specials and George McCrae, while frankly odd multi-part opus ‘Carnival of Fools’ commences with Game Boy style bleeps, before veering off in to languid windswept piano balladry via a nod to Freddie Mercury’s ‘Living On My Own’.
Lyrically things are generally quite dark with themes of loneliness, paranoia, self loathing, obsession and anti depressants, reaching a pinnacle on ‘Golden Rope’ where the Mondays meets Banshees lolloping groove grinds to a halt for Gillespie to repeatedly intone “I know that there is something wrong with me” over a celestial choir. As an antidote to this, the lyrics of delightful baroque, folky duet with Rachel Zeffira (Cat’s Eyes) on ‘Private Wars’, resemble a self help litany.
The band come a slight cropper when harking back to their own past. Opener ‘Trippin’ On Your Love’; complete with Balearic piano, John Squire style guitar and a similar drum sound to their own ‘Come Together’, aims for a re-enactment of Screamadelica era bliss, but only succeeds in sounding like any number of baggy bandwagon jumpers. Brief ‘Miss Lucifer’ rehash, ‘When the Blackout Meets the Fallout’, while a welcome blast of aggression on an otherwise easy listen, feels like a by the numbers attempt to restate their noise credentials.
Whilst being a typical Primal Scream mixed bag, and a release that may not quite realise it’s full potential (fewer choruses consisting of the repetition of the song title wouldn’t have gone amiss), this is their most enjoyable and least frustrating release in years.