Primal Scream

More Light

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Primal Scream always refracted the past through the prism of the present, turning hero worship into something resembling high art. It wasn't always this way, not at the start, when they were part of the delicate, brittle C86 scene, nor was it true when they exploded in a brilliant blast of acid house on Screamadelica. The art came later, after they halted their ascendency via the Stones-aping Give Out But Don't Give Up, a move that in retrospect seems to be an important final foundation within the construction of Primal Scream but at the time seemed odd, halting, flying in the face of Cool Britannia. Bobby Gillespie and crew rubbed shoulders with the fellow Creation labelmates Oasis but Primal Scream never belonged to Brit-pop; they dropped out and tuned in, dabbling with radical politics, dub, and free jazz, pursuing that path until they once again acted like a rock band on Riot City Blues, an album, like Give Out, that seems like a waystation that, along with 2008's rangier Beautiful Future, feels like a necessary detour for the group to refuel. More Light flaunts all of the benefits of their recharging. It is one of those odd Primal Scream albums where they pull it all together -- roping in the hard rock, free jazz, club beats, flowery psychedelia, the worship of the Stooges, and a devotion to avant-garde cinema -- building upon the past in an attempt to get closer to the future. Their own history is not exempt from examination: they flirt with the aggro aggression of XTRMNTR and Screamadelica's "Movin' on Up" is explicitly quoted on the closer, "It's Alright, It's OK." That tune is placed at the end of the album, concluding the album on a bit of a triumphant note, a tone that's rather appropriate for More Light. Primal Scream never shy away from darkness here, either in their lyrics or music, but More Light percolates with bright, incessant inventiveness, as if they are gripped by the tantalizing possibilities of their creations, and have yet to give up on the future, despite all the bleakness that surrounds them. Occasionally, that darkness creeps into view -- "Elimination Blues," with vocals from Robert Plant, churns its groove until there seems to be no escape; "Relativity" reaches a cacophonous crescendo, never slipping back to a comfort zone -- but what sticks with More Light is that sense of adventure, how it wrestles with the future by using the rules of the past. Maybe it's a losing game -- as the years slip by, situationist politics, avant-garde art, and psychedelic pop all fade from popular consciousness -- but the brilliant thing about More Light is how it suggests that the struggle itself is empowering.

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