Primal Scream's 1991 pastel illumination of music, Screamadelica, is either a rock-conscious techno album or a rhythmic, dance-club injected throwback to Rolling Stones blues. Lots of great albums in the past have straddled genre lines, but classic rock and dance pop? It's almost too ambitious to possibly fail. And that's exactly the case on the ever-evolving Scottish band's third - and best - studio record. Exchanging Stonesy blues licks and infectious dance beats, Primal Scream truly created something never heard before in popular music.
Bobby Gillespie, drummer for alt-rock outfit The Jesus and Mary Chain, formed Primal Scream in the 1980s. The band flirted with many styles of music before settling on a sort of fusion of house, rock and Britpop made popular by English band The Stone Roses. That outfit's own masterwork, a 1989 self-titled album, certainly was an important influence on Primal Scream, who finally pushed themselves into the creative stratosphere with the genre-bending Screamadelica.
First, there's the hippy-ish "Movin' On Up," combining upbeat, cheerful lyrics with Crosby, Stills & Nash-like harmonies to trick the listener into thinking they are listening to a reminiscing rock album.
Then there's the second track, "Slip Inside This House," which immediately and staggeringly changes directions, all but abandoning conventional instruments in favor of an absolutely addicting dance beat and deliciously simple bass line. This sentiment is followed up by "Don't Fight It, Feel It," but later the album delves back into twangy blues and southern rock, like on the lamenting "Damaged," a tasteful spawn of the Rolling Stones' "Wild Horses."
The song most ahead of its time, though, is "Loaded." It's questionable how much input the actual band had in the making of this song, but it is a successful celebration of the importance of intelligent and creative production efforts. The album's producer, Andrew Weatherall, samples an old Primal Scream song ("I'm Losing More Than I'll Ever Have"), cutting and pasting sounds until the song is almost impossible to recognize. He layers it with dialogue from old movies and adds horn sections and explosions of feedback for good measure.
A style over a decade in the making, "Loaded" is one of the founding fathers of today's DJs' remixes and splicing of a wide variety of source material to create a completely new entity - for evidence, check out the massively successful Jay-Z and Beatles fusion, The Grey Album.
With Screamadelica, Primal Scream paved the way for an incalculable amount of sub-genres; it's impossible to know for sure, but there's industrial rock (Nine Inch Nails), sample and remix-based hip-hop (Danger Mouse, Girl Talk), techno (Moby), and classic rock revivalists (the Black Crowes). That the band has never again reached the level of inimitable distinction and effortless execution should not detract from Screamadelica itself, which stands not just as a band's best work, but as an important step in the progression of music.