Graded on a Curve: Primal Scream, Screamadelica

The year: 1992. The place: a rave in a field outside Manchester. I’d taken enough e to send Hannibal’s 37 elephants into the stratosphere and I said to the geezer I was dancing next to, “This is the most beautiful thing that’s ever happened to me.” He replied, “This whole deal’s a hallucination, mate. You’re in your apartment in Philadelphia listening to Primal Scream’s Screamadelica. It’s the next best thing to being here.”

And he was right. Still, it was one of most beautiful things to ever happen to me. But youth are fickle, and there came the day when raves went the way of the Acid Tests and youth moved on to other things, in my case rehab. But on occasion I still dig into my closet and put on my baggy pants, orange Kangol hat and pacifier, and hold my very own one-man rave, neighbors be damned.

And speaking of “Movin’ on Up,” it’s one of the premier tracks (alongside ”Loaded” and “Come Together”) on Primal Scream’s 1991 landmark Screamadelica. The LP captures the good vibrations that came with taking MDMA and dancing with thousands of stoned strangers at an illegal rave in some rural field in the outer reaches of Manchester. All three stand alongside the Happy Mondays’ “Step On” and “Kinky Afro,” and the Stone Roses’ “I Wanna Be Adored” and “Fools Gold” as iconic souvenirs of a time when the Hacienda became Manchester’s very own Studio 54—the difference being you didn’t have to be Bianca Jagger to get in.

“Movin’ on Up” is everything a rave song should be–the nonstop drum beat is impossible not to dance to, the acoustic guitar and piano add coloring, and the female backing vocals contribute a gospel feel to let you know that raves were the new religion. On “Loaded” the same gospel singers take front and center, and the looped drums, recurrent piano riff, and horns constitute trance music at its best.”Come Together” is a call for youth unity, and yet another gospel-heavy, crash course for the ravers on which Bobby Gillespie wants you to touch him, because e makes you want touch people even when fucking them isn’t on the agenda.

“Slip Inside the House” purports to be a 13th Floor Elevators’ cover, but what I hear is Eno-period Talking Heads–while Primal Scream were slipping into the house, Brian and David were burning it down. “Don’t Fight It, Feel It” has a house beat and boasts some trippy synth squiggle, and features guest Denise Johnson on vocals. ”Gonna get high ‘til the day I die,” she repeats, and I’m sure the sentiment was shared at raves from the Hacienda to Castlemorton Common.

The sad and keyboard-driven “Damaged” brings—remarkably enough—the Faces (with Ronnie Laine on vocals) to mind, while “I’m Comin’ Down” deals with the lows that inevitably follow the highs of the post-rave experience. “Highs and pills won’t heal my ills,” sings Bobby Gillespie, “But they make me feel better for a little while.” It’s a less vivid take on the bringdown than Pulp’s “Sorted for E’s & Whizz,” on which Jarvis Cocker sings, “I lost my friends, I dance alone/It’s six o’clock, I want to go home/But it’s “No way, ” “Not today”/Makes you wonder what it meant” which is followed by the poignant “And you want to call your mother/And say “Mother, I can never come home again/’Cause I seem to have left an important part of my brain/Somewhere in a field in Hampshire, all right.”

The remaining tracks are more introspective, as is demonstrated by the too cerebral by far instrumental “Inner Flight.” The same goes for “Higher Than the Sun,” which the band calls a “dub symphony in two parts.” It features lots of heavy breathing and goes absolutely nowhere, slowly. Probably sounded great when you were chilling, but I’m not chilling (I never do) at the moment. “Shine Like Stars,” same deal; it’s late night trance music but at least it boasts a pretty melody and Gillespie’s hushed vocals to add some needed color.

I’ll always be a Happy Mondays guy–their individual LPs may not measure up to Screamadelica or 1989’s The Stone Roses, but 1989’s Greatest Hits proves they were funkier, smarter, and flat-out weirder than the competition. Shaun Ryder had charisma galore and his lyrics to songs like “Funky Afro” aren’t you usual cliched rubbish–they stick with you in a way those by Primal Scream and the Stone Roses don’t.

But Screamadelica sent many a raver skyward, and you don’t have to own a pair of baggy pants to love it. I never got within dancing distance of e and I do. Like they say about the sixties, if you can remember them you weren’t there. But the vibrations are still out there, and you’ll feel them every time you put this classic on your turntable.

GRADED ON A CURVE:
A

This entry was posted in The TVD Storefront. Bookmark the permalink. Trackbacks are closed, but you can post a comment.
  • SUPPORTING YOUR LOCAL INDIE SHOPS SINCE 2007


  • Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text
  • Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text