Rated | Alphabetical
| Highest Rated 2006
Scream: Evil Heat
Posted: August 22,
Head Primal Screamer Bobby Gillespie considers Evil Heat, the
band's eighth album since 1987, "electronic garage band future rock 'n'
roll." Which turns out to be a fairly accurate, if oddly worded, assessment,
especially when one considers the wildly varying styles of the record's main
producers, former My Bloody Valentine noise constructionist Kevin Shields
and the duo of Andy Weatherall and Keith Tenniswood (known in Intelligent
Dance Music circles as Two Lone Swordsmen). Where Shields goes for heavily
layered guitar assaults and impenetrably dense beats, Weatherall and
Tenniswood opt for more spacious, elastic and non-threatening tones.
Surprisingly, the conflict between these two diametrically opposed
approaches adds more than it subtracts to Evil Heat's overall impact,
providing much-needed tension in an otherwise drugged-out, noncommittal
But that freshness of tension comes at a price; the loss of Primal
Scream's personality. Gillespieís reedy voice is present and the lyrics
(never the bandís strong suit) still riotously articulated, but itís the
studio accoutrements that take center stage throughout. Primal Scream
energetically does its part, but thatís all it feels like, but one aspect of
a larger tableau. Itís as if the band, having run low on fresh ideas, called
in old friends for much needed inspiration, perhaps hoping outside
assistance might add fuel to the bandís collective creative fire before it
was extinguished altogether. But that gambit backfires, as the band takes a
creative back seat throughout.
The Shields-produced lead track, "Deep Hit Of Morning Sun," offers up a
pessimistic outlook -- "Lose your friends/ One by one/ To the needle /To the
gun /To the virus/ To the bomb/ By slow death/ By fast burn" -- while raving
the night away to a manic, pulsating drone. Jagz Kooner's production on
"Miss Lucifer" builds on the opener's furious pace, with relentless drum
work evoking a kaleidoscopic swirl of trippy colors and nameless faces where
one-night stands are de rigueur, and formal introductions between
prospective partners not required.
Just as a dominant tenor of chaos and sleaze is established, however, Weatherall and Tenniswood restore order with the bright, outdoorsy "Autobahn
66," an homage to Kraut Rock in general and 1970s electronica pioneers
Kraftwerk and Neu! in particular. The song's simple, propulsive beat alters
the entire mood of Evil Heat, jerking it out of the dim urban squalor
of drug-fueled late-night clubbing in favor of a sunnier, more expansive
But the reprieve proves brief as Shields takes the reins for the next
four tunes: adding caustic, feedback-drenched orchestration to "Detroit;"
layers of noise behind the percussive thrust of the politically-charged
ďRise;" crunchy guitars and shrieking harmonica work compliments of Robert
"I've got a new album out, too, you know" Plant on the unpleasantly violent
"The Lord Is My Shotgun;" and Shield's own signature ringing guitar work on
"City," an ode to vintage '70s hard rock with a dash of glam.
Following this straitjacketed crush, comes Evil Heat's most
memorable and weirdly wonderful moment; a cover of the Nancy Sinatra/Lee
Hazelwood duet "Some Velvet Morning," with Gillespie and model Kate Moss
turning in a heroin chic take on the '60s pop hit. The Swordsmen's techno
knob fiddling adds an effective acid house wash to the song's coy lyrical
Shields caps his run with the punked-out, Stooges-esque" Skull X," which
sports the encouraging line "when boredom kills/ shoot morphine pills." But
Weatherall and Tenniswood get the final say with the excellent "A Scanner
Darkly," a full-on, nighttime cruiser of an electronica instrumental
complete with digital squiggles and turn signal clicks that, like "Autobahn
66," manages to convey what the Shields numbers do not: a sense of motion,
of positive progression. The subdued, vacuous closer, "Space Blues Number
2," a Second Coming ramble as viewed from the gutter after an all-night
binge, proves the Two Lone Swordsmen's lone misfire.
Despite its fair share of druggy numbers, Evil Heat achieves
neither the exuberant, ecstasy-fueled nirvana of the band's 1991
masterpiece, Screamadelica, nor (despite a smattering of venom-laced
lyrics) the left-wing political terror-attack of 2000's Xtrmntr.
Instead, it falls somewhere between those two poles, which seems only
fitting given the schizophrenic nature of its production. It's as if Primal
Scream were but a tool in a studio production workshop designed to see who could draw
the most interesting sounds from a veteran outfit struggling to redefine its
identity as it closes in on twenty years of existence.
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