Primal Scream – XTMNTR

Primal Scream - XTRMNTRIt’s hard to know what to make of the Scream these days. Last month they released their latest album, which apparently is closer to the sound of their 1994 “Give Out But Don’t Give In” album, a country soul rock ‘n roll album. This is a band that’s switched styles more times than I’ve had hot dinners (not really). In 1987, they released a fairly bog-standard indie-pop record (Sonic Flower Groove) before making the seminal indie/dance record Screamadelica in 1991. Flushed by success they made Give Out… before going a bit mad and making the dub/krautrock record Vanishing Point. Having gotten that out their system, the Scream returned in 2000 with my favourite album of theirs, XTRMNTR (or Exterminator as it should have been know. Singer Boggy Gillespie claimed at the time that “vowels are fascist”, go figure). The thing that’s always bothered me is whose album it really is?

It’s up for argument, but Primal Scream’s best albums have been the work of someone not in the band. Screamadelica was a landmark record, but much of the credit has to go to remixer/Andrew Weatherall, who in the case of the track “Loaded”, pretty much threw out what the band had written and created an amazing track on his own. And this is the case with XTRMNTR; almost every track has the touch of a seperate producer and in the case of “Swastika Eyes” the original version isn’t on the album. In it’s place are two (!) great remixes, but you have to wonder why a band doesn’t put it’s own, original version of a track on the album.

One of the album’s main strengths is the fact that it does actually feel like the work of one band, quite a feat considering the amount of people that’s worked on the album. It’s an angry, heavily electronic rock album that has some great moments. The opening burst of noise on “Accelerator” is intense and it doesn’t let up for a moment (Kevin Shield of My Bloody Valentine providing the white noise), “Shoot Speed/Kill Light” has a pummelling drum beat that keeps the track powering on until New Order’s Bernard Sumner kicks in with a trademark riff. Dan The Automator gives “Pills” a minimalistic hip-hop beat and David Holmes produces the album’s calmest track “Keep Your Dreams”, a gentle electronic lullaby. Some of the tracks don’t quite reach these highs: “MBV Arkestra” is a cut ‘n paste mess and “Insect Royalty” just shudders along. But on the whole the better tracks save the album. It’s still difficult to know what to make of Primal Scream; on one hand they make great albums, there’s no doubt about that. But with albums like their latest and Give Out… you get the sense that the band themselves just want to be a classic rock ‘n roll band like the Stones. There’s nothing wrong with that, but maybe then we’d really get to see who Primal Scream are.

Primal Scream – Swastika Eyes (live):


  1. Hey Ali, have you heard of a guy called Sufjan Stevens? Apparently his Illinoise album was one of the most aclaimed of 2005. Any thoughts? I just bought it and am pretty amazed.

  2. Yeah, Sufjan has apparently had a plan to realease an album with songs dedicated to each US state. He’s already done Michigan and Illinois. He’s well worth checking out.

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