Friday 20 April 2018

Bobby's primal gospel of heaven and hell

Primal Scream's Bobby Gillespie continues to do the one thing he knows: sing his truth, bare his soul and exorcise his demons

Bobby Gillespie has written songs about the effects of the drug culture
Bobby Gillespie has written songs about the effects of the drug culture
Barry Egan

Barry Egan

As Kevin EG Perry wrote in the UK Independent in March of this year: 'If you only listen to one album named after a book by the radical French psychiatrist Félix Guattari this year, make it Primal Scream's Chaosmosis.' Naturally, the book Bobby Gillespie and his trusty band of brothers are referencing is a heady tome about "faculties of the soul". On Private Wars, Bob the Gob sings his heart out, telling the listener, and perhaps more than anyone, himself: "Thorns grow in your heart/Poisoned from the start."

"It's impossible to decipher all the information that's coming at you in modern life," frontman Gillespie explained in an interview. "As an artist the only way of making any sense of it is to try to make an artwork, something that can be used to inspire yourself and other people in the face of this onslaught of negativity. We can apply that to what we're doing. I've always said that our music is like a shield and a sword."

Chaosmosis, the Scream's 11th album, is well worth the price of admission (as will be the band's show at the Olympia Theatre in Dublin in November). But in my opinion, their 2013 album More Light was Bobby et al at their most raw and powerful best, from the Velvet Undergroundesque Moroccan dark boogie of Relativity to Elimination Blues, with his pal Robert Plant singing with him to the voodoo of Walking With The Beast. "He hates himself and everyone, he is sucking on a loaded gun," sang Bobby to, and about, himself and his inner demons that he had partly exorcised since giving up the drugs a good few years at that point. Some of us probably wanted Gillespie to remain as the Citizen Caned of rock - permanently on cocaine, heroin or Ecstasy.

I still love the Scream's edgy masterpiece from 2000, XTRMNTR. "Everyone thinks that it's a political record because we had a song called Swastika Eyes on there," Bobby said of it in an interview. "Really, we were writing about the effects of the drug culture on myself and my friends. We were all neutralising ourselves. At the beginning of the 1990s that guy was gonna be a writer, this guy was making films, this guy was gonna be a guitar player. What happened by the end of the 1990s? They all had heavy addictions. We were buying into the idea of taking drugs as rebellion, when really we were suckers who bought a gimmick. Of course, I'm not anti-people doing drugs. It was great!"

The indefatigable Bobby Gillespie (son of a former Sogat union official) was permanently unafraid to be himself, no matter how out of step with the mood at the time. In the week Lady Diana's funeral was held in London in 1997, Bobby junior issued a statement: "Primal Scream have no respect whatsoever for Diana Spencer or any member of the English royal family. We are totally opposed to the monarchy."

"The Scream have always been rock 'n' roll," said Alan McGee who has encouraged the band since 1984.

"See, the thing about them is they're honest. Whatever they're feeling at the time is what they're going to do. We were all going to clubs and taking loads of Ecstasy around 1988, 1989 and that's why Screamadelica happened," McGee said, referring to Primal Scream's legendary 1991 album (so legendary that some people have it played at their funerals, and others have it played when their children are born.)

"And clubs, drugs and hallucinogens have been shit for quite a long time," continued McGee, "and I think they're pretty environmental basically. Put them in an environment that's really good and they'll recreate that environment on a record."

To this day, Bob The Gob continues to sing his truth: the gospel according to Gillespie, the redemptive gospel of heaven and hell.

Primal Scream play The Olympia Theatre in Dublin on November 30

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