Primal Scream have spent three-plus decades in an almost constant state of reinvention, jumping between genres and styles not just from album to album but also from track to track. It’s an approach that has produced some of the most essential albums of the last thirty years, despite a few of missteps along the way. Their revolutionary 1991 psychedelic rave breakthrough ‘Screamadelica’ is the most obvious example of them finding the winning formula, a record which sits alongside ‘Nevermind’ and ‘Loveless’ as an early 90’s classic.
The drug-fuelled post-‘Screamadelica’ years saw them veer off into Southern rock, earning them the label of “dance traitors” in the NME. But after re-jigging the band to include Mani from The Stones Roses and later Kevin Shields of My Bloody Valentine, Primal Scream produced their best run of albums to date with the alt-rock/alt-dance of 1997’s ‘Vanishing Point’, the aggressive electronica of 2000’s ‘XTRMNTR’, and its arguably more accomplished sister, 2002’s ‘Evil Heat’.
Another decade would pass before Bobby Gillespie and the gang would reach similar heights, with the messy psychedelia of 2013’s ‘More Light’ seeing them enter their fourth decade in style. With their mojo seemingly back and 2016 being the 25th anniversary of ‘Screamadelica’, there was plenty of expectation surrounding Primal Scream‘s eleventh album.
Sadly though, ‘Chaosmosis’ doesn’t come close to matching kaleidoscopic exhilaration of their last record. It’s yet another reinvention, this time trying their hand at 21st century synth-pop, but its scaled back and accessible approach leave it feeling quite lifeless.
Not every album they produce has to be revolutionary, but on ‘Chaosmosis’ they’ve crafted a record that too easily blends in with a crowded field. For a band that have frequently stood out from it, more was expected from their take on modern synth-pop. They were one of greatest bands on the planet either side of the millennium, constantly changing their style and challenging listeners, but here they sound like they’re simply imitating others.
It’s not all bad though, with the Goth-tingled synth-pop of ‘100% or Nothing’ being the highlight of side one, and the sparking lead single ‘Where the Light Gets In’ featuring Sky Ferreira offering up a fine piece of pop music. The driving electro-rock of ‘Golden Rope’ with added gospel and jazz also hints at what could have been, but by then it’s too late as the album is all but over. ‘Chaosmosis’ may be another misstep, being more closely related to 2008’s limp ‘Beautiful Future’ than anything they’ve released, but if anything, the joys of ‘More Light’ three years ago proved that they definitely still have it.
Chaosmosis is out not via First International.
This Primal Scream review was written by Daniel Kirby, a GIGsoup contributor. Edited by Stephen Butchard