Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Good Ship Rediscovery: Primal Scream - Xtrmntr

We all forget about the older stuff from time to time, in our quest to stay up to speed with the latest and greatest. But one should always respect their elders. So don’t forget about them, y’hear?

After the epic, loved-up and rave-ready Screamadelica and the Glaswegian take on the Blues that was Give Out But Don't Give Up, not to mention the seductive snarling bleeps of Vanishing Point, it was anyone's guess as to where on earth Primal Scream might go next. The answer was Xtrmntr, all vowelless and terrifying and intensely in your face, proclaiming loudly and brazenly that modern life is a rubbish nightmare. It was, and is, incredible.


Aside from being an overall fucking great record, Xtrmntr holds a rather special place in my heart. Its release coincided with my time in Glasgow, and I was lucky enough to see the band tour the record at an appallingly great show at their hometown venue, the Glasgow Barrowlands. I used to walk the streets of Glasgow's West End with my headphones blaring the teeth-bared menace that is Xtrmntr.

Opening track "Kill All Hippies" offers a glimpse of what the Scream has up their sleeve. The sticky, languid beats and Bobby Gillespie's trademark, slightly confrontational vocals proclaiming, "You got the money/I got the soul/Can't be bought/Can't be owned" give the song a darkly hypnotic vibe, not to mention acting as a (slight) moment of (relative) calm before the full-on assault of "Accelerator." "What's this screamin in my ear," ponders Gillespie while the guitar not-so-gently wails. "It's the future/it's the future," comes the urgent reply.

Title track (well, with extra vowels thrown in!) "Exterminator" takes on modern life with a sound at once terrifying yet gratifying. "All jails are concentration camps/all judges are bought/everyone's a prostitute," Gillespie flatly states while the noise behind him twists and strains and grimaces against the weight of itself, not to mention, seemingly, of the world.

At just under seven minutes long, "Swastika Eyes" nods back to the Scream's dance past, but this isn't exactly a good time get your party on track. The frantic beats and bleeps back a message that is once again incredibly vitriolic towards the powers that be. "Blood Money" is another long and winding sonic sprawl, brass adding to the somewhat jarring jumble as the song goes on and on. It's not (quite) all gloom and doom, as the Scream offers up the white light of "Keep Your Dreams." "Keep your dreams/don't sell your soul/be careful," cautions Gillespie against a much gentler, almost lull. The respite is exceptionally brief, seguing into the ferocious drone of "Insect Royalty," a song I always liked to imagine as equating our less than intrepid political leaders to things like cockroaches and other Kafka-esque grotesques.

"MBV Arkestra (If They Move Kill Them)" is a Primal Scream song reimagined, from the vaguely sinister version recorded a few years earlier to this version, replete with some badass brass and no shortage of contortions. The band loved the remix of "Swastika Eyes" as done by the Chemical Brothers so very much that they included the rather danceable speedfreak remix on the LP. My favorite of all favorites on Xtrmntr comes at the very end of the record in the form of the so sublime, just about totally transcendant "Shoot Speed/Kill Light." Listened to at high volume, the sheer majestic gloriousness of this one might just take you to an entirely new spiritual plane. Not only is that my favorite on this record, but it's one of my very favorite Primal Scream songs of all time.

Xtrmntr was what happened when Bobby Gillespie and his compatriots got really dang pissed off at the world. And Lordy me, it's a good thing they were so vexed.

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