On its initial releases, Primal Scream were a group of '60s revivalists crafting hooky, guitar-driven pop songs. The band signed to Creation in 1985, and over the next year they released a pair of singles. However, the band didn't really take off until the middle of 1986, when Gillespie left the Mary Chain and guitarists Andrew Innes and Robert Young joined the band. "Velocity Girl," a rush of jangly guitars, was a B-side that wound up on NME's C-86 cassette compilation, a collection of underground pop groups that defined the U.K.'s mid-'80s indie pop scene. The band's debut, Sonic Flower Groove, fit into the C-86 sound. After the band rejected the initial version recorded with Stephen Street, they re-recorded it with Mayo Thompson, and the record was finally released in 1987 on Creation subsidiary Elevation. The album was well-received in the British indie community, as was its 1989 follow-up, Primal Scream, which demonstrated hard rock influences from the Rolling Stones and New York Dolls to the Stooges and the MC5.
As the '80s drew to a close, Britain's underground music scene was dominated by the burgeoning acid house scene. Primal Scream became fascinated with the new dance music, and they asked a friend, a DJ named Andrew Weatherall, to remix a track from Primal Scream, "I'm Losing More Than I'll Ever Have." Weatherall completely reworked the song, adding a heavy bass groove echoing dub reggae, deleting most of the original instrumentation (even the layers of guitars), and interjecting layers of samples, including lines of Peter Fonda's dialogue from The Wild Angels. The new mix was titled "Loaded," and it became a sensation, bringing rock & roll to the dancefloor and dance to rock & rollers. "Come Together," the first single from their forthcoming third album, was in much the same vein, and was similarly praised.
For their third album, Screamadelica, Primal Scream not only worked with Andrew Weatherall and Hugo Nicholson, the pair who essentially designed the sound of the album, but also the Orb and former Stones producer Jimmy Miller. The resulting album was a kaleidoscopic, neo-psychedelic fusion of dance, dub, techno, acid house, pop, and rock, and it was greeted with rapturous reviews in the U.K. Released in the spring of 1991, Screamadelica also marked an important moment in British pop in the '90s, helping to bring techno and house into the mainstream. The album was a massive success, winning the first Mercury Music Prize in 1992.
In the wake of the groundbreaking Screamadelica, many wondered what Primal Scream would do next, yet few would have predicted their retreat to '70s hard rock for Give Out But Don't Give Up. Released in 1994, the album was eagerly awaited, but its Stones-y hard rock was not well-received, and it was a relative commercial failure. More importantly, it hurt the group's reputation as innovators, a situation they reacted to with the title track to the hit 1996 film Trainspotting. The band's contribution to the soundtrack was a return to the dance stylings of Screamadelica, only darker. They continued to work on their next album, titled Vanishing Point, over the course of 1996, finally releasing it to enthusiastic reviews in the summer of 1997. The ultra-aggressive XTRMNTR followed in the spring of 2000. Two years later, Primal Scream released Evil Heat, a guest-laden (even supermodel Kate Moss makes an appearance) album in line and on par with XTRMNTR, and in 2006, Riot City Blues came out. Festival shows and gigs with My Bloody Valentine's Kevin Shields filled out the following year, capped off with the release of the single "Can't Go Back." That single reappeared on the 2008 Suicide- and Alan Vega-informed full-length Beautiful Future. In 2011, the band toured in support of the 20th anniversary of Screamadelica, which resulted in a live DVD. The following year, Mani left to focus on a reunion of the Stone Roses, whom Primal Scream went on to support with Deb Googe from My Bloody Valentine on bass. 2013 began with news that the band were working on their tenth album with producer David Holmes. The resulting More Light was released in the U.K. in May 2013, appearing in the U.S. a month later. Sporadic touring followed in support for More Light, and the group spent 2015 recording their next album, Chaosmosis, which appeared in March of 2016.
Primal Scream dug out their original Tom Dowd-supervised mixes of the 1994 album Give Out But Don't Give Up for an archival release in October 2018. In keeping with the nostalgic spirit, the group issued the double-disc career-spanning collection Maximum Rock 'n' Roll: The Singles in May 2019. Gillespie turned to non-Scream projects after that, in 2021 releasing Utopian Ashes, an album of duets with Savages' vocalist Jehnny Beth, and a memoir of his early life titled Tenement Kid. That same year, the band celebrated the 30th anniversary of Screamadelica with a series of reissues including a set of rarities called Demodelica. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine & Tim Sendra, Rovi
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