‘Where The Light Gets In’, a pulsing electropop duet with Sky Ferreira, might declare that “peace begins within” but it’s also a place where uncomfortable truths present themselves, as they do on the self-excoriating ‘(Feeling Like A) Demon Again’ or ‘Carnival Of Fools’. It’s strange to hear Gillespie’s famously acidic tongue turned upon itself on ‘Private Wars’ (“Thorns grow in your heart/ Poisoned from the start/ Angry still at everyone/ Time to let it go”), while a breathy backing vocal from Rachel Zeffira (best known for Cat’s Eyes, her project with Horrors frontman Faris Badwan) needles away like the better angel of his nature. Over the course of a 35-year career defined by excess, reinvention and the occasional brush with genius, Primal Scream have made all sorts of albums, but not one quite like this.
The group’s latest studio album, the self-produced Chaosmosis, moves along a groove curve, more synthesizer than guitar driven. This trade-in of instruments returns Primal Scream to its seminal rave-up album, the non-replicable Screamadelica. The inclusion of a cross-section of female voices is a good match-up with the trippy dance vibe of the album. Haim lends fluttery back-ups on two songs: the psychedelic, Chemical Brothers/Happy Mondays referencing opener, “Trippin’ On Your Love,” and the electro-rocking “100% Or Nothing.” Cat’s Eyes’ Rachel Zeffira adds her voice to the stripped back, 12-string acoustic “Private Wars.” On the highlight duet with Sky Ferreira and vocalist Bobby Gillespie, irresistible pop stormer “Where The Light Gets In,” the two contrasting styles—one sultry and taunting, the other low and seductive—egg each other in turns, verging into a glittery chant on the chorus.
They’ve created pop that sounds somehow distinctly Primal Scream while also being catchy and clever enough to introduce new fans to a band that’s been around for over a quarter of a century. But is it as good as their darker, more serious records? Not even close. It may be a callback to the sounds of the band’s early ’90s output, but does it beat the albums of which it’s so reminiscent? Of course not. So, while Chaosmosis is truly a solid record, Primal Scream are almost cursed by the quality of their output. At best, this cracks their top five. On my personal list, it hangs out toward the middle bottom.
For those who are excited to hear something new from the consistently fantastic band, or anyone who is looking for a fun new song to dance to at a DJ night at one of the hipper clubs in town, it’s a great listen. With songs like “(Feeling Like a) Demon Again” that drive your shoulders and hips into flowing convulsions or “I Can Change” with its slow -burning, head- wagging R&B groove, there is a great deal to enjoy. Will it be your favorite Primal Scream record? Probably not, but it’s a good record with a couple of killer jams — so roll a little face for old time’s sake.