At last, a cleaned-up Scream are fit to play their iconic al­bum live

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Opinion -

IF YOU AM­BLE along to Ox­e­gen’s Heineken Green Spheres Stage on Sun­day at about 10pm, you’ll come across a sight many thought im­pos­si­ble. You may well be, as many have been be­fore this fes­ti­val sea­son, left rooted to the spot and dropped of jaw by the spec­ta­cle of a clean and sober Pri­mal Scream. Truly, this is the eighth won­der of the rock’n’roll world.

There’s won­der­ful po­etic sym­me­try to the fact that Pri­mal Scream will be play­ing Screa­madel­ica, which the NME re­cently voted the “Drug­gi­est Al­bum of All Time”. To put that some­what un­ortho­dox ac­co­lade in con­text: Screa­madel­ica was judged to be “even drug­gier” than Miles Davies’s Kind of Blue (which is re­ally some go­ing) and any­thing ever re­leased by The Rolling Stones, Vel­vet Un­der­ground, Sly and The Fam­ily Stone, The Happy Mon­days and Spir­i­tu­al­ized.

It doesn’t take a de­gree in “Al­bums made un­der the in­flu­ence of Grade A Nar­cotics” to know that Pri­mal Scream’s top rank­ing sig­ni­fies some­thing per­versely heroic.

Leav­ing aside whether the band could have recorded Screa­madel­ica while clean and sober, the happy fact is that, in their cur­rent state, Pri­mal Scream can ac­tu­ally play the al­bum live – and very well. As well as such a ma­jes­tic piece of mu­si­cal work de­serves.

We all know that Screa­madel­ica won the first Mer­cury Mu­sic Prize (still the best-ever win­ner) and that it demon­strated how even a cul-de-sac in­die band could douse them­selves in house mu­sic and cre­ate an era-defin­ing mu­si­cal mo­ment. But lit­tle is known of the ex­tent of the ad­vanced phar­ma­col­ogy that went into its record­ing. In the lead-up to the al­bum, Bobby Gille­spie had gone to a ware­house party to score some speed and first gazed upon the then still un­der­ground house mu­sic scene.

Ec­stasy changed ev­ery­thing for the pre­vi­ously al­co­hol- ad­dled mu­si­cians. Gui­tarist Andrew Innes best summed up those rapidly chang­ing times.

“You went from be­ing out at some in­die club where some drunken id­iot would start try­ing to pick a fight with you to this in­cred­i­ble new-sound­ing mu­sic and beau­ti­ful girls and ev­ery­one’s be­ing friendly. You’d bump into some foot­ball hooli­gan and think, ‘Oh God, here we go’, and he’d give you a cud­dle and that would be your new best friend for the night.”

Screa­madel­ica wasn’t easy to make be­cause the band would go out club­bing on a Thurs­day night and not come home un­til the fol­low­ing Mon­day, which left only three days a week for record­ing. “It was a love of mu­sic that brought us all to­gether and that’s what we re­ally get ex­cited about,” Gille­spie said at the time. “But we also get ex­cited when the drugs turn up . . . re­ally ex­cited.”

There was also the not-at-all in­signif­i­cant con­tri­bu­tion of DJ Andrew Weather­all, who took Pri­mal Scream’s dreary I’m Los­ing More Than I’ll Ever Have and, in a mo­ment of in­spired alchemy, turned it into Loaded, which turned out to be one of the most sig­nif­i­cant sin­gle song changes of the past few decades. There was also the ar­rival of an Akai S1000 sam­pler in the stu­dio, which demon­strated the end­less pos­si­bil­i­ties in the art of sam­pling.

There will never be an­other Screa­madel­ica, and all con­cerned in the mu­sic in­dus­try have moved on from those de­bauched days, as record com­pa­nies now em­ploy “life­style coaches” to mon­i­tor their charge’s be­hav­iour and all of that.

Go and see Screa­madel­ica be­ing played on Sun­day night. It’s more than just an al­bum.

Pri­mal Scream: Bobby Gille­spie: plays Ox­e­gen on Sun­day

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