Tuesday, 23 September 2014

100 LPs shortlist #42: Primal Scream - "Give Out But Don't Give Up"

Primal Scream were darlings of the English music press in 1991, with their soundtrack of the then-burgeoning rave scene "Screamadelica". The album is regarded in the hallowed annals of publications like Mojo and the NME as a masterpiece, capturing the zeitgeist of a brave new underground movement.

So what do you do when you're the darling of the hipper-than-thou music rags, to follow up said masterpiece?

Commit something close to career suicide: release a rock album.

The band had released two indie rock albums in the late 1980s that were quite average sellers. "Screamadelica" saw a huge shift in sound and saw them at the vanguard of a new sound influenced heavily by house music and other forms of European dance music. They became the accessible and visible face of an otherwise hidden, clandestine cultural movement.

When "Give Out but Don't Give Up" landed in stores and journalists desks in 1994, the reception was hostile. The criticism was largely the same. In summary: "Who the hell does Bobby Gillespie think he is, making an album that sounds like a poor imitation of 'Exile on Main Street'?" The NME even went so far to label the band as "dance traitors".

So what is the problem here? The album's biggest crime is that it wasn't "Screamadelica Volume 2". It wasn't anything like the extended heavy dance grooves of its predecessor. There were very few drum machines or synths to be heard.

Mind you, all the tracks here all pack mighty danceable grooves within their structures. The difference is that they are all played on real instruments: acoustic drums, electric guitars and basses and brass. It even features guest vocals from soul singer Deneice Williams and Parliament/Funkadelic leader George Clinton. To further round out the P-Funk connection, the back cover even has a grainy photo of Funkadelic's recently deceased guitarist Eddie Hazel.

If anything, the grooves are not as high energy as what they were previously or as they would become on subsequent albums such as "Vanishing Point" and "XTRMNTR". But that does not mean this is a wasted effort.

The record starts off with the two best and strongest tracks "Jailbird" and "Rocks", both guitar-heavy jams that are just plain good fun, as is "Call on Me" later on. Mr Clinton runs riot on a few tracks, most notably "Funky Jam" and the title track. While the latter is a sexy slow burning groove, the former is a bit of a throwaway, overlong by half and failing to develop the themes, opting to keep them the same.

Not being a huge fan of dance music, the charm of "Screamadelica" has largely been lost on me. While I'm also not a fan of slavish imitations of vintage artists (take Jet for example) the Stones, Faces and P-funk nods on this record are obvious but not derivative. While the middle of the record has a few flat spots, it's still a far better record than the then-recent effort by a more famous band of Faces copyists, "Amorica" by the Black Crowes...

Take a listen to the album below and give us your opinions in the comments section below.

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