Primal Scream ‘Chaosmosis’ Review: Scottish iconoclasts return with a slick electro-pop makeover.
Primal Scream never sit still for long. Their discography shows the Bobby Gillespie led outfit veering seamlessly from acid-house (Screamadelica) to roots rock (Give Out But Don’t Give Up) and all things in-between (XTRMNR, Vanishing Point).
In a recent interview with The Scotsman, Gillespie noted they were ditching Light’s psych-bombast to work “within the confines of a three-minute commercial pop song.”
For a band known for aggressive agitprop, this is a surprising development, but it speaks to Gillespie and guitarist Andrew Innes’ songcraft that it works quite swimmingly.
They firmly embrace 21st century dance pop on tracks like Carnival of Fools, a synth stabbing dance floor banger and first single, Where The Light Gets In, a shimmering collaboration with vocalist Sky Ferriera, whose presence mashes-up seamlessly with Gillespie’s cooing vocals.
The female dynamic looms large on Chaosmosis: Cat’s Eyes vocalist Rachel Zeffira lends haunting background vocals on folk ballad Private Wars, while Haim provide luminous backing harmonies on Trippin’ On Your Love (a shameless if very catchy nod and a wink to Screamadelica). The sisters pull double duty on the album, also appearing on the insistent New Order-esque 100% Percent of Nothing.
Lyrically, Chaosmosis is Gillespie’s most personal album, looking back on his days of drug abuse. On I Can Change his lyrics of self-destruction clash against tropical bossa nova instrumentation “All the pain that I caused/all the time that we lost/drink and drugs, self-destruct.”
And krautrock ear-worm (Feeling Like) A Demon Again, features confessional lyrics that belie its effervescent charms: “I was jealous and insane, mediation kills the pain.” Likewise the hypnotic Golden Rope features a mantra of fretful self-awareness “I know that there is something wrong with me.”
Fans craving the band’s dystopian fury may find frustration with Chaosmosis, although When The Blackout Becomes The Fallout comes closest to scratching that nihilistic itch.
But that’s the beauty of Primal Scream, they refuse to stick to anyone’s playbook but their own, following their muse where it takes them. I won’t at all be surprised if their follow-up is their most abrasive to date. But Chaosmosis works surprisingly well, especially with repeat listens.
It’s less battering ram, more Trojan Horse. Subversion for the masses that freaked Gillespie back on More Light single 2013: “They killed the counter-culture/underground/It offers no critique/No revolutionary spirit left/They’ve sanitized the freaks.”
If it takes honey to catch flies over vinegar, so be it: Primal Scream know how to get the job done.
You can own Chaosmosis via iTunes or Amazon below: