Primal Scream - Vanishing Point
Named after the 70s chase movie, Vanishing Point saw Primal Scream return to narcotic-scrambled sounds after the straight up rock ‘n’ roll of Give Out But Don’t Give Up. This time Mani (ex of The Stone Roses) was onboard, and the trip was going to be somewhat more ambivalent than Screamadelica, that celebration of all things chemical.
The album begins with Burning Wheel, a bass heavy psychedelic rocker, which seems to acknowledge living wildly will eventually take its toll (but says, “hell, yeah,” anyway). It’s one of a number of tracks suggesting motion, adventure, speed. Kowalski, named after the hero of Vanishing Point, is another. Littered with dialogue from the film and Bobby Gillespie’s whispered vocals, it will test the stereo image of your hi-fi equipment, aggressively experimental noise fizzling and echoing around your speakers, until the track finally implodes.
At the centre of the album are three tracks depicting the very lows of substance addiction. If Out of the Void is quietly spooky (sample lyric: “I can’t slip my skin/ I’m full of dust/ I’m chemically imbalanced”), the grinding death dub of Stuka, Gillespie’s voice heavily disguised by vocoder, is downright evil. Although damn satisfying, Medication is musically less adventurous (the band in Stooges/Stones mode again), and describes a desperate need to escape the city, its vices, its drugs.
Vanishing Point also has moments of calm. Acting as a much needed breather between Burning Wheel and Kowalski is the stoned jazz of Get Duffy, while the haunting instrumental Trainspotting is taken from the film of the same name. Star and Long Life are both gorgeous. The former, complete with melodica (by reggae legend Augustus Pablo), tablas and brass, is a tribute to freedom fighters and human courage: “It ain’t true that everybody’s got a price/ Sing this song for everyone that stands up for their rights.” The latter brings the album to a close, Gillespie singing “Good to be alive” over what could be an oceanic dub-reworking of Fleetwood Mac’s Albatross; yet there’s a definite sense of melancholy, of time passing away.
Only a couple of tracks vaguely disappoint. Motorhead just seems, well, unnecessary. If They Move, Kill ‘Em is clumsy, throwing psychedelic cliches over a hip-hop beat. The My Bloody Valentine mix (which would eventually appear on XTRMNTR) is much more radical.
So in Vanishing Point we have a seriously cool album: a record heavily influenced by dub and sonically daring; a record that references drug burn out (something the band supposedly had first-hand experience of by this time), cult cinema, and heroes, both fictional and real. Along with Screamadelica and XTRMNTR, it should be an essential part of any Primal Scream fan’s - indeed, any music fan’s - collection.