This Primal Scream article was written by Daiva Sen, a GIGsoup contributor. Edited by Nick Roseblade
The post-Stone Roses, pre-Blur/Oasis era has often been seen as a dark time for British bands. The biggest and best band in the world at the time was on the other side of the Atlantic, as the grunge movement and Nirvana’s ‘Nevermind’ exploded on both sides of the ocean. One day before ‘Nevermind’ was released however, Glasgow’s finest rock n roll band, Primal Scream, released the first winner of the Mercury Prize – ‘Screamadelica’.
A characteristically diverse shortlist provided Primal Scream with their competition for the 1992 award. Like all Mercury shortlists, some would go on to bigger and better things, whilst others would slip completely out of view. Heavyweight entries included Simply Red and U2, who made a huge comeback with one of their most acclaimed albums – ‘Achtung Baby’. Competition also came from another Scottish band – The Jesus and Mary Chain, whose wall of noise guitar sound would later become so influential for British bands in the mid 90s.
Looking back, the panel made the right choice first time around. ‘Movin’ On Up’, now one of the bands classics, is a fantastic opening. But whilst you can’t fault the band for the songwriting and spirit in their opener, originality? Not so much. It is a great tune, but it is afterwards that the album becomes the album so deserving of that inaugural Mercury Prize. Move onto ‘Slip Inside This House’…. and whoa! Where are they taking us?
The centrality of the piano parts continue, but now with layers of reversing sitars and grooving bass lines, with the vocal faintly behind the instrumental. A reverberating cricket-whistle and sizzling hi-hat builds on ‘Don’t Fight It Feel It’, mixing with those gospel vocals once again. This shock to the system is then cooled down by the most ethereal moments of the album, ‘Higher Than The Sun’ and ‘Inner Flight’.
Then comes the knockout one-two punch… Just as the Glasgow band have taken us floating away from their past material, ‘Come Together’ builds for five minutes before reaching its anthemic refrain – horns, piano and vocals coming together to bring down the house. You have a few seconds to catch your breath, with the spoken Peter Fonda sample from ‘The Wild Angels’ – “We wanna be free to do what we wanna do!”, before the instrumental combo returns as strong as ever, as the album’s lead single – ‘Loaded’ hits you with a tidal-wave of feel-good vibes.
The band really stick their necks out following this duo with the most down-tempo, subtle moment of the album – ‘Damage’. Following a song like ‘Loaded’ with a ballad is a ballsy move, and it works a treat, as it segues into the fading vocal and free-flowing saxophone of ‘I’m Coming Down’.
Had it been released a year later/earlier, perhaps this album would have gained even greater respect, but like so many, it was engulfed in the shadow of Seattle’s raw-guitars. The sequencing is nailed every step of the way. There are few albums that are able to pull off a progression from a song like ‘Slip Inside This House’ to ‘Damage’. Truly one of the greatest albums of the 90’s.
Full of enduring classics and little gems, ‘Screamdelica’ was the perfect album to champion what has become Britain’s most prestigious music award.