The New Oxford American Dictionary defines a primal scream as
a release of intense basic frustration, anger, and aggression, esp. that rediscovered by means of primal therapy.
And so we come to the band Primal Scream, who were, for the better part of two decades, a bit out of alignment with their name. It could well have been an intentional bit of irony, what with their earliest releases essentially being upbeat jangle pop, and Screamadelica splashing bright trippy colors all over the place. Even 1997’s dark Vanishing Point had more of a passive-aggressive, stalkerish feel than anything else.
Well, Bobby Gillespie finally realized sometime around the turn of the century that he’d have to make good on the implicit naming promise he made way back in 1982, and the results don’t disappoint — XTRMNTR takes hard rock, collides it with frenetic electronica, and yields a furiously noisy assault of sound from all corners. It only takes one listen to
Accelerator, a desperately-raging wave of distorted guitar and barely-audible vocals, to understand what Primal Scream are aiming for. It’s an uncomfortable listening experience, for certain, but it’s supposed to be that way. XTRMNTR demands your attention in the same way an air raid siren does: punching through everything and anything, positively yelling
get out of the way!
Brought on board to reinforce the onslaught is Kevin Shields of My Bloody Valentine fame, who does so with unmistakable style. It’s all too easy to just pour abrasive noise into an audio mixer, dub it
a sonic protest, and call it a day, but the Scream instead take the opportunity to sharpen their instruments of war for maximum damage, as instrumentals like
MBV Arkestra and the spy-thriller-esque
Blood Money showcase. Gillespie’s vocal delivery, too, is on point for most of the album, with repeated references to government propaganda, rampant terminal disease, and urban decay forming the basis of My Bloody Valentine’s paranoid outlook.
Unfortunately, it’s difficult to keep up such a raging pace for sixty minutes, and there are a couple of missteps — a major offender in this regard is
Pills, where, after an impressive opening four-song run, Gillespie inexplicably tries his hand at rapping for a couple of minutes.
Insect Royalty sounds a bit tired with its unnecessarily-repeated lyrics, and Primal Scream should’ve left The Chemical Brothers’ remix of
Swastika Eyes for the single release, well-done as it may be. The rest of XTRMNTR, though, is a punishing, unrelenting protest, and one that, with the added hindsight of nine years, is perhaps even more apropos than it was upon its release.