Sunday, 19 May 2013

This Week - Primal Scream and Vampire Weekend

Primal Scream has never been a band to bow to convention, never staying in the same place for very long and frustrating fans and critics. Without question Bobby Gillespie and the band are at their best when they cut loose with psychedelic pop, none more so than the glorious timeless rhythms of Screamadelica and later the magnificent industrial stomp of XTRMNTR. But it's the disastrous forays into soft indie rock that has been Primal Scream's undoing: the hapless Give Out But Don't Give Up and the woeful Riot City Blues are huge blots on the landscape. So with new album More Light, the band (now without Mani who has returned to The Stone Roses) has returned to what they do best. This is weird and wonderful from the outset, a dark twisted and compelling album which opens with the nine minute monstrous epic 2013, sounding like an orchestra of which Jason Pierce would be proud. A great opening is let down by a weak first half: River Of Pain has sultry guitar work, Gillespie's breathless vocals and big strings, then the immense dark-funk bass and drums of Culturecide; both are impressive but Hit Void is a hopeless mess. A mixed bag leads to the brilliant stomp of Elimination Blues, all supreme guitars and drums, backing vocals and percussion. Only Invisible City, with guitar/trumpet combination works well after the spirited stirring ballad Tenement Kid. More Light shrugs off the inconsistencies and ends in style. Turn Each Other Inside Out is another fantastic bass line with pounding drums and guitars. Walking With The Beast, with echoes of Gillespie's ex-band The Jesus And Mary Chain, is a highlight - gorgeous guitars and vocals deliver throughout, before closer It's Alright, It's OK brings back the Screamadelica-era pop, all jangling guitars, hippie choral vocals and exquisite piano. Easily Primal Scream's best work since 2000 - ambitious, adventurous and wonderfully unique.

Vampire Weekend's third album has delivered the band's most interesting album to date, building on their auspicious eponymous début and adding focus to the pop rhythms of follow-up Contra. Modern Vampires Of The City is smart, precise and cool - exactly what Vampire Weekend should be. Up to now, they have always seemed more style over substance but, as opener Obvious Bicycle proves, the focused industrial acoustic sounds, wonderful songwriting and Fleet Foxes vocals are a winning combination. Unbelievers is an immediate pop-punk highlight while Step is an odd spiky piano-led Elizabethan waltz. Modern Vampires Of The City never quite revisits this opening but Hannah Hunt is a lovely mixed tale of road-trip and love-song with a big Dylan-esque outro and some of the best vocals from Ezra Koenig. Everlasting Arms is cool pleasant string-pop while Finger Back is completely different - punchy and fast, like following song Worship You, they take the album up a notch. Sadly, Ya Hey is a great song ruined by some grating vocal blending, the absurd chipmunk crooning a horror show - the album's only obviously bad move. Then Modern Vampires Of The City falls flat at the end with the spooky drawn-out mournful strings of Hudson followed by fragment closer Young Lion, this is a downbeat ending to an otherwise enjoyable work. Still unique and compelling, Vampire Weekend is full of character, intelligence and pointed observations, but the band still need more substance to dispel the often empty style.

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