THERE’S very few who would contest the mark that Bobby Gillespie’s Primal Scream have left on the music world, having remained at the forefront of the ever-changing industry ever since the days of the psychedelic 60’s pastiche that was 1987’s Sonic Flower Groove.
While the band themselves may not be the biggest fans of their debut album, it set the precedent for the rampantly creative band that they would metamorphose into in the years that were to come. Since forming at the tail end of the 80’s, there’s little debating that they’ve released a succession of phenomenal albums throughout the course of their storied career.
Their self-titled release took its cues from the 80’s fruitful indie and punk scenes, Give Up But Don’t Give Out was their love letter to the long lineage of rock ‘n’ roll bands that paved the way for them and tipped its cap to artists ranging from the Stones to MC5 while 2013’s More Light was a schizophrenic whirlwind that amalgamated all of their identity crises into a cohesive yet perplexing odyssey. Simply put, they’re one of the most diverse bands from the 20th Century and ceaselessly strive to progress their sound in any way they deem to be beneficial.
This is precisely why it can often be hard for the band’s devout fans to see the lion’s share of the adoration leveled towards Screamadelica, an album that; while one of the greatest albums of the past 30 years, casts a large and obscuring shadow over much of the band’s output and leaves the uninitiated with the impression that it’s representative of the band’s ‘signature’ sound.
The real tragedy of this state of affairs is that it leaves one particular album to languish in the darkness, a record which is arguably every bit as seminal and continually influential as their 1991 opus yet remains relatively unheralded.
Released just after the arrival of the new millennium, XTRMNTR is an album which typifies the tumultuous social, political and economical times that have followed, all the while in tandem with much of the band’s most sonically bewildering and perfectly crafted music.
If the jubilant and hedonistic nature of Screamedelica is comparative to 1967’s blissful Summer Of Love, then XTRMNTR is the musical equivalent of the unrest of the Nixon era and the social upheaval of the Vietnam War that was to come shortly after.
Filled with lashings of noise pop, psych rock, industrial and electronica, XTRMNTR is a pummeling yet invigorating listen that deserves to be held in the same esteem as albums such as Screamedelica.
It’s evident from the very first note that XTRMNTR isn’t going to be a serene journey, opening with a sinister yet engimatic radio communication that leaves the listener aghast as to what’s about to occur next.
“Subvert normality” implores the girl identified only as ‘Gorgeous’ and that’s exactly what happens over the course of the next hour as the band defiantly outline the dystopian landscape that they see all around them.
With guest appearances from artists such as New Order’s Bernard Sumner and My Bloody Valentine’s leading light Kevin Shields, it should come as no real surprise that the music over which Gillespie and co. deliver their righteous social commentary is as layered and multi faceted as anything in their momentous catalogue.
Influenced by the invigorating dissonance of bands such as Suicide, XTRMNTR sees their dabblings with both electonica and punk taken to an entirely new plateau and reach heights that they’ve rarely replicated since.
‘Accelerator’ is as potent a track as they’ve ever released due to its seething riffs and unhinged declarations of the world’s impending doom while ‘Exterminator’s‘ descriptions of “satellite sickness”, “broken lives” and “no civil disobedience” are as relevant and hard-hitting now as when Gillespie first spat them out in a consciously vitriolic fervour.
Elsewhere, ‘Swastika Eyes’ sees the band deliver a sermon of disdain towards the far right over a dizzying electronic beat that Orbital or Leftfield would be proud to claim as their own while Mani’s revolutionary basslines ensure that the album’s experimental nature never dissipates on the bittersweet ‘Keep Your Dreams’.
The pulverizing ‘Insect Royalty’ fuses incessant hip-hop beats with an industrial approach to instrumentation that only adds to the effectiveness of its scathing observations while the inclusion of ear piercing and childlike pitch-shifted backing vocals serves as a startling allusion to the innocence that is foregone in our increasingly harrowing world.
Featuring warped saxophone and an entrancing, all consuming rhythm, ‘MVB Arkestra (If They Move Kill Em’) is nothing short of astounding at full flow while the motorik rhythms of ‘Shoot Speed/Kill Light’ set the precedent for the thousands of Krautrock-aping tracks which remain prevalent to this day, with very few even operating within the same terrain as Primal Scream’s awe inspiring album closer.
An album that no one would proclaim to be a serene and soothing listen for a Sunday morning, XTRMNTR sheds light on the inherent corruption of a society as its rots from the inside out, steadily expelling all of the injustice that once dwelled within and leaving it lifeless for all the world to see.
A nihilistic look at the demoralisation of our modern world and the evils which continue to prod at the very fabric of our existence, it’s an LP which deserves to take its place alongside Screamadelica as one of the most essential records of the past 30 years.
Given the state of the world as it is in 2015, it’d be unsurprising if their forthcoming Chaosmosis picks up exactly where this scathing yet spectacular record left off.