In the interests of journalistic integrity, I’ll be honest and admit that Primal Scream’s Screamadelica was a formative record of my youth, and remains to this day an album that I play on a very regular basis. It was one of those discs that perfectly encapsulated an era, the time – in the UK at least – when genres collapsed and collided, and music was once again a playground for those with an inventive mind. Primal Scream – up until that point a po faced and unremarkable indie rock band – embraced the emerging rave culture and became a group that embraced all the disparate music of the past that they loved, and brought that music, kicking and screaming, firmly into the present. The short version – they sounded like early 70s Rolling Stones had met mid 70s Funkadelic and dropped a ton of ecstasy together on the techno throbbing beaches of Ibiza.
Screamdelica may have been a defining album of the UK rave generation, but when Primal Scream announced a huge 20th anniversary celebration of the record, I was dubious to say the least – so many of these ‘lets play our most famous album in its entirety’ tours that seem to be in fashion at the moment are simply empty exercises in nostalgia and a cynical way to easily empty the wallets of the fans. Thankfully this DVD, which presents a show from London’s Olympia in its entirely, transcends this trend and presents this amazing music in way that it seems as vital and fresh as it did back in the day. This is mostly due to the band taking what was essentially a highly produced studio project and making it work in a live setting. I saw Primal Scream live back in the 80s and their over reliance on pre-taped ‘augmentation’ made for a less than exciting show. This production brings in a full horn section, a gospel choir, and a bevy of extra musicians to do full justice to the music. Relatively new bassist Mani – ex-Stone Roses – proves to be the band’s MVP, brilliantly translating the programmed basslines of the original to a real instrument, and underpinning the extended jamming on the funkier songs.
The band messes with the original running order of the album just a tad, but it makes perfect sense in the live setting. Three uptempo songs – opener “Movin’ on Up,” a very Stonesy rocker with some terrific honky tonk piano, followed by the two house like ravers “Slip Inside This House.” and “Don’t Fight It, Feel it” – give way to a four song suite of dreamy, jazzy instrumentals that have hints of Miles Davis and John Coltrane, but with a modern spin. This is still groundbreaking, challenging music, and to put them all together is a ballsy move that pays off. This paves the way for three extended funky jamouts to end the show : “Higher Than The Sun,” a collaboration with The Orb, which stills sounds, 20 years later, like music beamed down from another planet; “Loaded,” which combines the breakbeat from “Funky Drummer” with Peter Fonda samples and huge amounts of wah wah guitar, quotes Funkadelic and Sly Stone songs in its huge closing jam; and “Come Together,” which combines samples from a Jesse Jackson speech and a gospel backing for a hugely euphoric closer.
If you’ve never heard Primal Scream, then you owe it to yourself to check them out, and this is the perfect package to do just that. Apart from the DVD of the Screamadelica set – which also includes a 40-minute ‘greatest hits’ set played earlier, which showcases the amazing range of music that the Scream produced in the years that followed, which ranged from Faces- esque rock and roll to crashing noisy techo – this set also includes and audio CD of the Screamadelica set. Highly recommended.