Primal Scream - Evil Heat (Columbia)
It's not fair, I was looking forward to my usual rant about how over-rated and dreadful Primal Scream are, and what do they do? Release a bloody good album, that's what. It's taken them a very long time to come around to recording something innovative and interesting, but that's just what they've finally managed to do.
From the opening sounds of 'Deep hit of morning sun', there's an obvious difference, the electronics are bleepier, far more retro, drawing on the classic Krautrock sound currently en vogue in the electroclash scene. But, that doesn't mean that Primal Scream have gone all electro, quite the contrary. While their use of the minimalist sounds of the likes of Kraftwerk contrasts nicely with their previous overuse of the noisy electronic noises of the NIN et al, it is well matched with some razor sharp guitars and some very nice vocals.
'Miss Lucifer' sees the introduction of the Stooges-influenced garage rock sound that makes the sound whole. This is Primal Scream playing magpie with two major scenes of the moment and combining them in an innovative way that means they now sit somewhere between the Strokes and Fischerspooner. 'Autobahn 66', on the other hand, is a fairly pointless bit of soundscaping, Kraftwerk with muted guitars, and some bizarrely Simon & Garfunkel-esque singing.
'Detroit', thankfully, picks up the tempo substantially, a raw and edgy garage rock sound pushed through an electronica grinder, with a swaggering vocal performance from Bobby and a guest vocal from his former Jesus & Mary Chain bandmate, Jim Reid. 'Rise' is even better, a thumping beat, razor sharp guitars and a strident Iggy Pop-esque vocal performance from Bobby, as he rants and yells probably their clearest political statement yet, covering a swathe of modern controversies from globalisation to militarisation and social exclusion and calls on listeners to "rise, rise".
For 'The Lord is my shotgun', it's not just Bobby who staggers, it's the entire track, with Bobby hissing and spitting like a folk singer in the vein of Woodie Guthrie over a screeching and clunking backdrop, with Robert Plant contributing a powerful blast of harmonica sounds (the track, to be honest, does seem to owe quite a bit to Alabama 3's mix of electronica and US music). Kevin Shields adds some great guitar work to 'City', probably the most Stooges influenced track on this. 'Some velvet morning' continues the guest star trend, as Kate Moss proves she's not just a pretty face with a very nice vocal performance on the slice of dark and moody electronica.
'Skull X' goes back to the Stooges sound, with some screaming guitars, a driving beat and some more Iggy-esque vocals from Bobby. 'A Scanner darkly' is another pointless soundscape piece, a bit more Tangerine Dream than Kraftwerk this time, but still... Then again, it is better than ambient rubbish like 'Keep your dreams' on "Exterminator". 'Space blues number 2' is a serious return to the gospel-influenced sound of "Screamadelica", but I must say that ending the album with this is a straight steal from the way Death in Vegas ended "The Contino sessions" with 'Neptune City' and doesn't have anywhere near the same impact. All in all, it's not a perfect album, but it is finally a post-"Screamadelica" Primal Scream album that's worthy of the automatic critical acclaim they always seem to receive.