My Life Shines On: Screamadelica Turns 30

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Primal Scream – Screamadelica

Released September 23rd, 1991 on Creation Records

Produced by Andrew Weatherall, Hugo Nicolson, The Orb, Hypnotone, and Jimmy Miller

Peaked at #8 U.K., #31 U.S. Heatseekers

Singles:

Loaded” (#16 U.K., #19 U.S. Alternative)

Come Together” (#26 U.K., #13 U.S. Alternative)

Higher Than The Sun” (#40 U.K.)

Don’t Fight It, Feel It” (#41 U.K.)

Movin’ On Up” (#11 U.K., #2 U.S. Alternative)

Damaged

When Primal Scream began it was a beat-around band, something to pass the time every night. Bobby Gillespie would bang trash can lids together while Jim Beattie would smash out distorted guitar lines, and when Gillespie eventually joined The Jesus And Mary Chain as their drummer he kept the band in his back pocket. After Pyschocandy started to blow up, Primal Scream put out the single “All Fall Down” and the Reid brothers told Gillespie to pick a band. So he did. For the first few years after that, it seemed like it might have been a mistake. Primal Scream’s first album, 1987’s Sonic Flower Groove, was too clean and safe to make much of a dent in either the charts or the amped-up youth hearts; 1989’s Primal Scream was the album they ‘discovered rock ‘n’ roll’ on, but the shift was jarring and didn’t gel together well. They weren’t much for the critics or the crowd, and if they’d fumbled their third album there probably wouldn’t have been a Primal Scream.

That third album went much differently, though. The band put some material together that summed up their influences, which at the time were bands like Joy Division and the Buzzcocks as well as Pet Sounds, The Marble Index, and dub reggae. What set their sound above was their collaboration with the acid house scene, particularly Andrew Weatherall and Terry Farley. Weatherall and Farley would take the band’s recordings and remix them. The first single, “Loaded”, began as a remix of “I’m Losing More Than I Ever Have” from Primal Scream, to which Weatherall added a drum line from a bootleg Italian mix of Edie Brickell’s “What I Am” and some dialogue from The Wild Ones. Much of the rest of the album took the same form. The producers would pick through the songs and find parts that they liked, which they then married to other samples and inspirations. The result was a wildly inventive album that brought acid house to the eye of the public and Primal Scream into the arms of the critics. It was as explosive in its own way as Nevermind, which was released the next day. Both albums would upend what was considered The Rules for the music industry: Nevermind broke punk and Screamadelica broke rave, and the mainstream world would never be the same.

The album still stands up splendidly today. There is something timeless and joyful about the final product. It melds its disparate genres together seamlessly and still feels like the most blessed, clean acid trip you’ve ever been on. The band were notoriously wild (maybe not to the point of early Jesus And Mary Chain, but still) and on Screamadelica they made being wild sound like the most blissful little journey to ever embark on. They would try to recapture the magic a couple of times during the rest of the decade, although their attempt to shift back to hard-edge rock music while ingesting prodigious amounts of drugs led them to grind themselves raw while getting nowhere with the critics, who are always hostile to bands who careen between genres. It wasn’t until they laid off the narcotics and got focused that they got back into people’s good graces, but that wouldn’t be until the fabled year 2000.

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