When a band has been active for as long as Primal Scream, new releases tend to be approached with trepidation. Their expansive back catalogue is peppered with major highs and genre busting creativity, but when they go into default Mick ‘n Keef mode, it results in pretty average albums (Give Out But Don’t Give Up from ‘94, 2006’s career nadir, Riot City Blues). They’re dangerously close to that time again.
Another Primal Scream trend is when they release a great album, as they did with the sprawling 2013 album More Light, their best album since Xtrmntr, they tend to follow it up with something more conventional. Chaosmosis, their eleventh, is a pop album. A comparison would be their 2008 LP Beautiful Future, a record which had a bunch of tracks that were entertaining at the time, but which was generally filed on the shelf soon after release.
More Light was the result of the 'Scream being revitalized by revisiting their iconic Screamadelica album in the form of celebratory gigs. A further few years down the line, that album is once again referenced, but in a much less effective way in the form of our opener, the Haim-assisted "Trippin' On Your Love". Instead of an exciting reboot, it comes off as one of the many copyist bands that used Screamadelica as a template to boost their own careers and get them out of the indie landfill ghetto they were stuck in. It doesn't work - even the title is a little cringe.
Known for their mistrust of genre limitation, Chaosmosis does visit more areas than the average pop album, "(Feeling Like A) Demon Again" is immediate and hooky, while the crisp beats, flute lines and Gillespie's impressive falsetto on “I Can Change” - a yearning electro ballad that could have sat quite comfortably on the Plastic Beach album by Gorillaz, featuring a surprisingly heartfelt moment of vulnerability from Gillespie - are certainly points of interest here.
Unfortunately many parts of the album aren't executed anywhere near as well; "Carnival Of Fools" is instantly dated by the plink plonk keyboard sounds which come across like a decade old CSS track, the Sky Ferreira-aided "Where The Light Gets In" is pleasant enough but ultimately overproduced and too shiny.
Primal Scream operate best when they let the dark in, a method best deployed on the furious "When The Blackout Meets The Fallout", a belligerent piece of electro-rock which harks back to the Evil Heat era of 2002, and "Golden Rope" is dramatic, riff heavy and crammed with the kind of psychedelic freak outs that made their last album such a treat.
Closing track "Autumn in Paradise" is a successful attempt at fusing social commentary with catchy pop, Gillespie reflecting "There's a factory that's empty/No-one works there anymore/Down a street are broken families/dreams are in the trash". It might come across as hammy, a successful rock star observing the kind of streets he has no connection with, but it sounds like a great 1988 New Order song which is certainly no bad thing.
Chaosmosis has its moments, but it sure is patchy. Self-produced with assistance from Bjorn Yttling of Peter Bjorn and John, the 'Scream are stripped here from the kind of producers whose own collaborative nature mirrors their own, names such as David Holmes, Jagz Kooner, Andrew Weatherall whose heady eclecticism and experimental approach gets the best out of the band. Time to make that call then.