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Screamadelica Red &
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(2-LP set) There's no underestimating the importance of 'Screamadelica,' the record that brought acid house, techno, and rave culture crashing into the British mainstream - an impact that rivaled that of Nirvana's 'Nevermind,' the other 1991 release that changed rock. Prior to 'Screamadelica,' Primal Scream were Stonesy classic rock revivalists with a penchant for Detroit rock. They retained those fascinations on this LP -- one listen to the Jimmy Miller-produced, Stephen Stills-rip 'Movin' on Up' proves that -- but they burst everything wide open here, turning rock inside out by marrying it to a gleeful rainbow of modern dance textures. Original artwork, red & yellow vinyl.
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Getting into specifics, "Movin' On Up" is possibly the most joyous rock song that I've ever heard. It is overwhelmingly, explosively happy. Every sound in it is big and uplifting -- the gospel choir, the blues guitar, the acoustic rhythm, Bobby Gillespie's howling proclamations of faith. "Slip Inside This House" is an anthemic dance song with an inventive rhythm track laced with major-key synth patterns. It's great for summer driving, especially if you're not single at the time. Screamadelica can make you feel young.
Even the sad songs are actually happy. "Damaged" is an ode to those "sweet summer days when I was feelin' so fine / just you and me, girl, was a beautiful time / ah yeah, never felt so happy, my, my, my." Sure, he acknowledges that he'll never feel this way again, but he's having so much fun just recalling those days -- you can feel him savouring the memories -- that it doesn't sound like a lament at all. "Shine Like Stars" is a beautiful, idyllic love song in which Gillespie waxes sentimental about how, "I watch you sleep / you look so peaceful." Possibly the darkest-sounding song on the album, "I'm Comin' Down," still sounds calm more than pained. A fairly gentle come-down, really.
Then there's "Higher Than The Sun," the product of a brilliant, one-of-a-kind meeting of minds. It's produced by The Orb, the first techno band to have achieved mainstream success, and precisely at the time when they were the talk of the town with their ground-breaking first album Adventures Beyond The Ultraworld. It was a fantastic way for Primal Scream to establish their dance credibility. Nowadays, it may seem cynical for a rock band to grab a hot-shot young producer, but back then, The Orb's sound felt new and revolutionary, and it was an inspired move. Anyway, The Orb turn in the best production of their entire career, with their trademark echoes, weird ambient effects and bass, but also with gorgeous, blissed-out horns. It's such a perfect combination, to go from the chaotic ambient breakdown to the horns. And Gillespie's hazy voice, drawing out the lyrics deliberately slowly, conveys total, unreal happiness.
The last brilliant song here is "Loaded." It's not produced by The Orb, but it sounds inspired by them. Basically it's a long sound collage with anthemic horns, sampled dialogue from a Peter Fonda movie, and jamming drums. Again, a stately, summery song, a perfect soundtrack for the glory days of one's youth.
These songs are all amazing, timeless material, but unfortunately, the rest of the album is a bit plodding in comparison. The dub version of "Higher Than The Sun" is very much an acquired taste, focusing mostly on freaky sound effects and the over-rated bass playing of Jah Wobble. It is a bit much for seven and a half minutes. "Inner Flight" is a pretty, but very simplistic instrumental. The melodies in "Loaded" are also simple, but at least "Loaded" has many more different layers, whereas "Inner Flight" sounds very slight. "Don't Fight It, Feel It" has a generic-sounding dance diva on vocals, and the chirpy synth lead starts sounding very repetitive after a short while. And lastly, "Come Together" has more great vocals from Gillespie, but most of the song's numbing eight-minute duration actually consists of a gospel choir repeating "come together, oh, come together." This also gets old fast.
Because of the filler, Screamadelica may be a bit difficult to listen to from beginning to end. It is quite long, lasting over an hour, and reaches its absolute peak early with "Higher Than The Sun." However, for expressions of happiness, there is nothing like it. The best songs have a much more subtle production than they might seem to at first, so they have an ability to grow on the listener.
Amazing band, amazing artist, Bobby Gillespie, and their best album ever. Glad to have been able to purchase it in 2016, and can now listen to it in the car on roadtrips like I'm in 1991.
Favorite track(s): all of them, Slip inside this house and Higher than the sun
Most recent customer reviews
Mix in some Stones some rave and a bit of dub.Throw in some groovy vibes and u too will be higher than the sun!