Sunday, October 23, 2011

Primal Scream-Vanishing Point

Originally Written and Posted at on 11/2/05 w/ Additional Edits.

When Primal Scream came out with their third album Screamadelica in 1991, it was the album that blew the U.K. away as it marked the end of the vibrant, rhythmic Madchester era and pushed dance music further with a bit of rock, house, soul, and electronic music to the mix. In 1992, the band won the first ever Mercury Music Prize for artistic achievement in the U.K. as its singer Bobby Gillespie was a star along with his band members Robert Young and Andrew Innes along with new keyboardist Martin Duffy. Immediately, anticipation for their follow-up album was heating up. In 1994, they released their follow-up album entitled Give Out but Don't Give Up which was a return to the band's rock roots.

Despite a hit song in the U.S. with Rocks and opening for Depeche Mode in their world tour, Give Out but Don't Give Up received lukewarm reviews and fans who wanted something more edgy was disappointed. The band took a break only to return in 1996 with Screamadelica producer Andrew Weatherall for an instrumental title track to Danny Boyle's 1996 landmark drug film Trainspotting which won back a lot of fans. The band regrouped themselves for their next record in which the band decided to move away from the psychedelic and house style of Screamadelica for a much darker album entitled Vanishing Point after the 1971 car-chase cult classic by director Richard Sarafin starring Barry Newman, Cleavon Little, and in the U.K. cut, Charlotte Rampling.

If Screamadelica was the ultimate party album splashed with Ecstacy, psychedelics, and lots of color. Vanishing Point is a post-party album where heroin is the drug of choice, the colors are a lot darker,  and everyone is a bit hung over while watching some dark cult films. Produced by Primal Scream and Brendan Lynch with the track Trainspotting produced by Andrew Weatherall, the band does a bit of rocking but without a lot of the blues from their previous record. The main focus is a lot darker with dashes of 60s psychedelia, dub, art-rock, electronic music, and some funk courtesy of the band's then-new bass player, Gary "Mani" Mounfield of the Stone Roses. Released in 1997, Vanishing Point is a record that sets the mood for a dark hangover filled with pop culture references and lots and lots of trippy lyrics.

Through its distorted waves of noises mixed in with Pink Floyd's Interstellar Overdrive comes the opening track Burning Wheel. With its swirls of psychedelia and British trad rock, the band comes in as Bobby Gillespie sings his trippy, drug-induced lyrics with the hypnotic keyboards of Martin Duffy, Marco Nelson's throbbing bass lines, and the crashing guitars of Andrew Innes and Robert Young. Accompanied by mid-tempo, bopping beats, the song is filled with a great hook in the chorus as Gillespie's vocals just wails in this ode to Pink Floyd. Next is the instrumental track Get Duffy is a dub-based track with wandering beats simmering across Martin Duffy's organ melodies and wavy guitar riffs by Innes & Young. With echoes of metallic beats in the background and distorted buzzes behind Brendan Lynch's production, the instrumental is hypnotic in its mood and in Duffy's keyboards.

The big single from the album is Kowalski after the hero of the film Vanishing Point as Cleavon Little's super-soul DJ's voice is heard. Then Mani's throb-heavy bass lines arrive through the swirls of guitar and keyboards distortions. Then Bobby Gillespie whispers with his vocals for the song's hero as he repeats the film's title. With its ringing of keyboards and sirens of guitars, it's Mani's bass that gives the song its dark, demented feel as Gillespie goes into some of his trippy lyrics as he sings for the anti-hero Kowalski in his journey on the road with the DJ guiding him. Star opens its electronic-accompanied, shimmering beats and harmonic keyboards as the song is a smooth, laid-back track. With Gillespie singing the song's psychedelic-fused lyrics with his soulful lyrics. It's a retread of the band’s sound of Screamadelica with more swirls of electronic music, accompanying horns, and buzzing distortions of keyboards that is melodic for its seduction.

The next instrumental track is If They Move, Kill 'Em that opens with a ringing siren of keyboards that is followed by Marco Nelson's funk-induced bass lines as the guitars come crashing in with its mix of funk and rock. With the waa-waa guitars playing behind the swirls of electronic distortions, horns follow in this mix of dub, rock, electronic, and soul as the theremin sirens come wailing. Out Of The Void is another song that is filled with Duffy's hypnotic organs and swirls of sirens through Lynch's production. Gillespie reaches to darker lyrics of drug abuse as if he just got out of a party gone horribly bad. With Mani's bass line providing a dub feel to the song along with the melodic-blues guitar work of Innes and Young, the song is a standout for its dark tone. Stuka is a dub-based track with throbbing bass lines and smooth, reggae beats along with its swirls of doorbells, guitars, and synthesizers. The most rhythmic song of the track, Gillespie sings through a robotic vocoder with dark, sinful lyrics as he sings, "I got an original sin" as Duffy's synthesizer wails through Lynch's distorted, layer production.

The band returns to straight-ahead rock for Medication with its mid-tempo, bouncing drums, and blues-induced guitars as the band goes for an old-school Stones sound with Gillespie's rocking, sexy lyrics as he fuses his soulful vocals for the song. In this ode to the Stones' sound, this track is a real standout for the band's straightforward approach with Glen Matlock providing the right bass feel for the song to Innes & Young's guitars. The next rock track is a cover of the Motorhead song simply titled Motorhead that opens with distorted, growling vocals as it opens with fast-paced, electronic beats and Mani's driving bass lines through its crashing, siren sounding guitars and Gillespie singing Lemmy Kilmeister's dark lyrics. Though the band doesn't go for speed, they do manage to conjure a trippy approach to the Motorhead song that ends with crashing layers of sounds through Lynch's production.

Next is an 8-minute version of the instrumental track Trainspotting that is produced by Andrew Weatherall as the track is filled with bass-pounding beats and Weatherall's amazing production filled with distorted guitar swirls. With sirens and voices playing in the background, beats come in along with melodic guitar riffs and Duffy's organ playing. Of all the instrumental tracks, this one stands out for its production and tone of the track that is filled with harmonic keyboards and it plays well to the film which the track was named after. The album closer is the slow but seductive Long Life where it opens with Duffy's simmering synthesizer notes as the siren of guitars and throbbing bass lines come in with slow, reverb drums. Gillespie sings the song with his cool, nocturnal vocals through lyrics that are very dark as if he just survived another party gone bad as he claims it's good to be alive. With his falsetto vocals in the background through the layers of Lynch's production, guitars start to come in playing distorted, melodic riffs as the album winds down with a hangover induced close.

When the album came out in 1997, the album not only received critical acclaim but won back whatever fans they had lost through their misguided return to trad-rock. While the album didn't do very well in the U.S., in the U.K. it was a monster hit as it established the band as one of the best in the U.K. Following a tour, the band released the rarities record Echo Dek that featured remixes and outtakes from the sessions of Vanishing Point. Still, the band with its new lineup was just getting started as they would take the dark sound of Vanishing Point to new heights with their 2000 follow-up, the politically-charged XTRMNTR. Compared to 1991's Screamadelica and 2000's XTRMNTR, they’re all party albums. Screamadelica starts out as a party album filled with psychedelic drugs that winds down to its haziness. Vanishing Point comes off where the party takes a dark turn where late-night TV watching has become a day-to-day thing and there's a reach for hopefulness. XTRMNTR is where the party is now in hell as the world has lost its point and everything is thrown into chaos.

While Vanishing Point doesn't have the variety of Screamadelica in terms of vibrant songs or the rocking edge of XTRMNTR, it's still an amazing album from Primal Scream. It's also their darkest of their career so far through its hypnotic yet brooding production as well as the performance from the band. Yet, it's a record that allows Primal Scream to keep going following the disappointing results of Give Out But Don't Give Up. In the end, Vanishing Point is a chilling yet intoxicating album from Primal Scream.

Primal Scream Albums: (Sonic Flower Groove) - (S/T) - Screamadelica - (Give Out But Don't Give Up) - (Echo Dek) - (XTRMNTR) - (Evil Heat) - (Dirty Hits) - (Shoot Speed: More Dirty Hits) - (Live in Japan) - (Riot City Blues) - (Beautiful Future)

(C) thevoid99 2011

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