Volume 93, Issue 81
Friday, March 3, 2000
|ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT
Primal Scream turns it up, Morphine turns it off
Everyone wetting their pants over Oasis' supposed "new direction" should do themselves a favour and trace Primal Scream's musical progression over the years.
The last decade has seen Bobby Gillespie's drug-addled band evolve from a Rolling Stones-aping, fanny-shaking soul/rock outfit to a politically conscious, dub-influenced act.
XTRMNTR is their most dense and ambitious offering to date, attempting to meld chaotic and fuzzed-out rhythms with new school psychedelia. Mix in a penchant for juttering dance floor beats and Gillespie's paranoid socio-political lyrics and you've got a recipe for an invigorating listen.
Not unlike their last proper release, Vanishing Point, this album is a jarring, often cacophonic exercise in sonic experimentalism.
The opening track, "Kill All Hippies," is a sprawling, dirty squelch of a song, with Gillespie pulling out his best falsetto to purr "You've got the money/I've got the soul" all the way through to the track's inevitable crash landing. The furious white noise of "Accelerator" continues the unrelenting pace, fusing murderously thick walls of guitar with Gillespie's delusional ramblings.
The standout here is undeniably the spastic first single "Swastika Eyes," which marries a New Order-esque bass line with a Chemical Brothers-aided rhythm section. Gillespie's strung out delivery works perfectly here and he spits out his lines with a venomous sneer which renders the track an instant classic.
XTRMNTR is special because of the way in which it retains a strong melodic and rhythmic structure underneath all of the noise. Hidden amidst all of these auditory blasts and gurgles are actual songs and strong ones at that. Although they've all but abandoned their trademark stoned-out groove (only the shimmering "Keep Your Dreams" is anything even closely resembling downtempo), this raucous effort from Primal Scream is undoubtedly a step forward in the band's evolution. Which is more than most bands can say.
Liam, Noel I'm talking to you.
The recent onstage death of Morphine frontman Mark Sandman meant this record (which was already completed at the time of the singer's accidental passing) was destined to be thrust under intense scrutiny.
Like passers-by slowing down to peer at a car wreck, people will be drawn to this record out of morbid curiosity.
Sandman's untimely death makes The Night even more surreal and otherworldly than it was originally intended to be. Morphine's hypnotic blend of percussion, saxophone and Sandman's deep baritone vocals conjure images of a simultaneously chaotic and soothing world where melodies drip like molasses into a steady haze of intoxicating rhythm. These songs pulse like steady heartbeats, mainly because of Sandman's substantial charisma and lyrical prowess.
It's difficult not to listen to his foreboding lyrics without getting goosebumps. "I know a ship that's leaving soon/Oh, in fact this afternoon," he croons on "Like A Mirror." "Leave your world and come to me/I'm closer to you than I might seem."
On the opening track, "The Night," Sandman plays the role of the tired-eyed protector and the hopeless stargazer. "It's too dark to see the landmarks/And I don't want your good luck charms," he sighs over top of a numbing blend of gurgling saxophones. "You're the night, Lilah/You're everything that we can't see/Lilah, you're the possibility."
It all amounts to stirring stuff, even doubly so given the knowledge of what would follow for Sandman. As an album, this swansong puts a suitably hopeful and stirring end to Morphine's quiet legacy.
As a musical accompaniment to an even sadder real-life tale, The Night is something even more a tragic and ultimately uplifting piece of beauty.
Copyright © The Gazette 2000