Primal Scream – Give Out But Don’t Give Up (1994)
“Give Out But Don’t Give Up” was a bit of a shock to many people when it was released. Following the massively successful “Screamadelica”, this return to classic rock and blues with a little bit of added funk divided opinion, with many disappointed that they hadn’t continued right where “Screamadelica” left off. As their 1991 breakthrough album wasn’t exactly my cup of tea in terms of genre (see Day 38), I was a lot more receptive to “Give Out But Don’t Give Up” when it was released and, as I worked in a record store at the time, I heard the singles and a few album tracks plenty of times. At the time, I didn’t love it enough to buy it, seeing as my paltry wages would probably fund the purchase or one or two albums a month, but I finally got round to buying it for a nice low price in 2009. I guess I like it now just as much as I did when I first heard it nearly twenty years ago; it’s a good album with a handful of excellent songs, but certainly not one of my favourites.
Opener, “Jailbird”, has a nice loose beat, a great riff and a good vocal hook and is a very strong way to kick off the album. “Rocks” is one of Primal Scream’s more famous songs and is probably the best Rolling Stones song The Rolling Stones never wrote, but is immensely catchy and likeable, so you can forgive the derivative feel of the track. “(I’m Gonna) Cry Myself Blind” is a very pleasant ballad, if a little repetitive, but it’s certainly one that you remember once you’ve heard it. Sadly, after the initial trio of songs, the quality is a little patchy thereafter. “Funky Jam” isn’t bad, but it sounds like the Primals are doing a bit of a Prince impression, “Big Jet Plane” is a nice, laid-back ballad, but it struggles to get out of first gear, melodically, “Free” attempts to revisit where “Screamadelica” was so successful, but without such good results and “Call On Me” is a decent, if unspectacular, rocker. “Struttin’” is eight-and-a-half long minutes of a spaced-out southern rock/indie hybrid which doesn’t quite have enough ideas to sustain the track length, but “Sad and Blue” is a genuinely gorgeous soul-enriched acoustic ballad with some lovely blues harmonica. Yes, it sounds like The Stones, but it’s that good, it really doesn’t matter.
The title track, featuring George Clinton, isn’t anything special, unfortunately, and I’m always glad when that one is over. The final (listed) track, “I’ll Be There For You” is a rather beautiful, soulful piece and Gillespie is in fine voice for this one. “Everybody Needs Somebody”, the twelfth (unlisted) track is also a lovely, gentle ballad and brings the album to a close on a positive note. On the whole, this is a bit of an inconsistent album that struggles to get into any kind of coherent groove, but there are plenty of highlights and at least half of the album is as good as anything else the band have ever produced. I’m never going to be the world’s biggest Primal Scream fan, but you have to admire their versatility and just how eclectic their back catalogue is. Whilst this isn’t their best album and you will find few fans of the band who will talk about this album in glowing terms, this is one of their more accessible and instantly likeable efforts. What they lack in originality on this album, they make up for with passion and swagger. It could have been so much better, but it’s pretty good as it is.