“It’s just such a monster, epic track that it had to be the first track on ‘More Light’. The lyrics are a critique of youth and pop culture, be it music, film, fashion, art, journalism. We’re living in very extreme times, but that doesn’t seem to be reflected in the music that I hear or the art that I see. It seems that people are kind of asleep or they’ve been anaesthetised or they just don’t care.” – Bobby Gillespie on ‘2013’, from Primal Scream’s new album ‘More Light’, released May 13th on their own First International label through Ignition Records and Cadence Music.
‘More Light’, the tenth studio album from Primal Scream, was recorded in London and Los Angeles during 2012 and was produced by David Holmes. The album is another twist in the band’s history, recorded after their recent successful worldwide tour of their hit album ‘Screamadelica’. Like ‘Screamadelica’, ‘More Light’ presents a musical state that lacks boundaries.
Gillespie explains: “The sense of space in the ‘Screamadelica’ gigs and the arrangements in the music had a wee bit of an effect in this. For the last few years we’ve been playing high energy, two guitar rock ‘n’ roll, and I think doing the ‘Screamadelica’ shows, we were on the way to doing something more spacious and free form, but I think that helped as well just the sense of space, some of this is quite epic sounding.”
Songs shift in style, moods and pace change frequently, different instruments sneak or charge to the fore. Touches of old influences like The Velvet Underground, Sun Ra, Phil Spector, The Ramones, Bobbie Gentry and Jesus and Mary Chain blend into sounds you have never heard Primal Scream work with before. The brass in particular is something producer David Holmes has encouraged them to let loose with.
It is an extremely confident album musically and isn’t afraid to shift styles mid-song. And there’s enough track time to do that, the opening track ‘2013’ itself is just under 9 minutes long and others clock in at over 5 and 7 minutes.
Gillespie says “I’ve got to give Andrew Innes credit for a lot of the sounds and instrumentation. We always knew it wasn’t going to be a straight ahead, balls to the wall, high energy rock ‘n’ roll, two guitars, bass and drum record. It’s more sophisticated, layered, cinematic and orchestral and obviously working with Holmes we were hoping to make a record more in keeping with that vision. Holmes has got to get credit for allowing us to play like that and think like that and he also brought in some great musicians like horn players, the bass player and the percussionists.”
Guest artists on ‘More Light’ include Robert Plant, Mark Stewart of The Pop Group and Mafia and Davey Henderson formerly of The Fire Engines and now Sexual Objects. With former bassist Mani now back with the reformed Stone Roses most of the bass on the album has been played by Jason Faulkner an LA based musician who has worked with David Holmes before and with a variety of acts including Beck and Air.
Most significantly ‘More Light’ feels like a journey, a soundtrack to a road movie. If ‘Screamadelica’ was the sound of a rave era weekend, ‘More Light’ takes you further faster. At times it feels effortlessly commercial at others startlingly experimental.
Gillespie describes parts of the album as incorporating free rock and free jazz and is confident they have selected the best of the work done in the sessions.
“We’re pretty good editors. We’ve become really good at keeping the best stuff. We’d edited a lot of the stuff and then Holmes came in and listened to the edits, then he edited it some more and just refined what we’d edited. I think we did a pretty good job and Holmes is great for saying ‘Get rid of that’.”
Gillespie adds: “We worked with David Holmes at the end of the 90s on a couple of solo records, he’s got a very cinematic vision.”
Gillespie’s own vision is of a world predicted by sci-fi author JG Ballard, Karl Marx and Situationist Guy DeBord: “Hollywood as capitalist dream propaganda and a generation subdued and distracted by celebrity and consumerism.”
‘More Light’ is driven through with this sense of anger. You can feel in the music that sense that what is on offer out there isn’t enough.
“We came out of punk rock and punk came out of the 60’s protest culture; kind of an underground, utopian militancy kind of thing, which was always an opposition to the power structure or any kind of authority and I just feel that at the moment in rock ‘n’ roll or rock music people are tranquillised. Where are the angry voices? Where’s the protest? Why’s nobody protesting? Why’s everybody silent?”
Lyrically in ‘River of Pain’ Gillespie explores/discusses the experience of a mother and children trapped in a violent situation.
“The effect it has on her and especially the children and how damaging it can be and how it’s a cycle that will be passed on from generation to generation. How important it is to try and break those cycles.”
All the lyrics were written in London with the exception of ‘Cultureside’ which was started on a train journey from New York’s Grand Central Station to Connecticut.
“The train was going through the city and I could see Harlem. I had an idea of what I wanted to write about in that song; it reminded me of travelling through London, out of Victoria and you can see all the council estates and into peoples houses and you can see a wee snapshot of their lives and you can look down on their estates, but you’re safe and comfortable up there on the train.”
All the songs on ‘More Light’ were written by Bobby Gillespie and Andrew Innes except ‘Goodbye Johnny’ (lyrics by Gun Club singer Jeffrey Lee Pierce) and ‘Turn Each Other Inside Out’ (lyrics from a poem by David Meltzer).
The sleeve is designed by renowned Glaswegian artist Jim Lambie.
On the album’s title Gillespie explained: “I’ve just got a thing about light. I’m quite sensitive to light and it just came and I thought ‘More Light is just a good title’. It’s kind of shining light on any kind of areas that are like normally dark or hidden away or places that things that people don’t want to talk about or embarrassed about or things they want to hide.
“So maybe some of the songs touch on that kind of stuff and also I’ve got this thing about shutters and big curtains that I love. I like that feeling in the morning when you open the big curtains or shutters and light pours in I like that feeling, it’s a regenerative thing, an inspiring thing and it’s positive as well because some of our album titles like ‘XTMNTR’ or ‘Vanishing Point, ‘Evil Heat’ are quite aggressive and intense sounding and could be construed as nihilistic and negative but this album’s intense and forward thinking and it’s beautiful and I wanted something that was coming out of a dark time and into a good time.”