Day 48: Primal Scream – Give Out But Don’t Give Up

Primal Scream – Give Out But Don’t Give Up (1994)

Primal Scream Give Out But Don't Give Up

“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.

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Day 38: Primal Scream – Screamadelica

Primal Scream – Screamadelica (1991)

Primal Scream Screamadelica

Primal Scream’s breakthrough album, “Screamadelica” was their third, but their first to embrace the house music culture of the time, breaking away from their previous indie direction.  Since it was released, it has always been regarded as a classic and, as such, when I saw it at a low price, I decided that it probably wouldn’t be too much of a gamble.  Quite honestly, it was everything I expected it to be.  There are three really huge songs on here, the brilliant, classic “Movin’ On Up”, a massive hit in the USA, which sounds very much like a loved-up, baggy Rolling Stones, the hypnotic “Come Together” (featuring a sample of civil rights activist Jesse Jackson and also not a cover of The Beatles’ song, for those not in the know) and “Loaded”, which contains a sample of Peter Fonda from “The Wild Angels” (“Just what is it that you want to do?”  “We wanna be free!  We wanna be free to do what we wanna do… and we wanna get loaded!”).  “Higher Than The Sun” and “Don’t Fight It, Feel It” were also singles taken from the album, so there are plenty of choice cuts here, even if they don’t have the star quality of the big tunes.

There’s no denying that, at the time, this album was hugely successful and popular but, now over twenty years have elapsed, much of the album now sounds a little dated and can sometimes, certainly to a sober mind, be a little dull in places. It’s still very good, though.  I can’t say that I dislike any of it, it just sounds exactly like what it is: an early nineties album with lots of Madchester influences.  It ticks all of the cool boxes – there are repetitive musical themes which continue to build as the song progresses, loose beats, snippets of speeches and dialogue from films, even a “come down” track (the rather good “Inner Flight”).  It is likeable, creative dance music with indie credentials, but it is difficult to avoid the images that cross your mind of the kind of fashion and culture prevalent at the time.  Much of the listening experience is an exercise in nostalgia, but it is also very easy to thoroughly appreciate and enjoy the creativity and chilled out vibe running through it.

So, is it a classic?  I suppose it is, in its own niche.  I don’t believe that it is one of the greatest albums ever made, or even that it is uniformly excellent, but that may simply be a question of taste as ‘dance’ music has never really been my thing, even when it is presented in this cross-over form. However, even if this isn’t exactly my favourite genre, “Screamadelica” remains one of the biggest and most important releases of that era and the material on this album more than justifies the reputation.

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