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Monday, April 30, 2012

Primal Scream, "Vanishing Point"

Primal Scream
"Vanishing Point"
Creation (1997)

1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die

The wonderful thing about concept albums is that they can be about almost anything. If a recording artist decided that he hated my blog and wanted to make an entire album dedicated to that malice, he could. More often than not however, concepts get too bizarre and fail trying to string together a narrative, therefore simple concepts have a higher success rate. Scottish alternative band Primal Scream had a simple idea: Why not draft a theoretical soundtrack for the cult road-film "Vanishing Point?" Hence the self-explanatory title to the album.

The band's main argument was that the film, which is a montage of car chases and car races, deserved a more appropriate score than the collection of hippie-era rock that was popular at the time. Perhaps, as a second reason for making the album, the requirements of creating such soundscapes allowed the band to revisit the electronica-infused style of its critical smash, "Screamadelica." The album following the Mercury Prize-winning "Screamadelica" was "Give Out But Don't Give Up," a less well-received effort.

Now although both "Screamadelica" and "Vanishing Point" both meld rock and electronica, they are by no means the same animal. The former is more dance-happy (and a little more drug-influenced as well) but "Vanishing Point" aims to frame car chases, and it does so by emulating different styles of electronica. It took cues from both the throbbing bass of dub (not dubstep) and the eerie sound effects of ambient.

Single "Kowalski" (named after the film's protagonist) makes heavy use of both, with echoing chirps and a thick wall of bass adding a "lost in the jungle" approach to the high-speeds suggested by the percussion. Vocalist Billy Gillespie delivers his minimal lines in a creepy whisper, and vocal parts from the film are laced into the bridge.

The dub approach continues throughout the album, with instrumental tracks like "Get Duffy" (featuring a fine addition of baritone sax), more eerie vocals and echoing wind chimes on "Stuka," and even a Mötörhead/Hawkwind cover of the song "Motorhead." Primal Scream only takes breaks from the breakneck pace for "Star" and album closer "Long Life," which sound like they could be intended as tributes to the original rock soundtrack of the film.

The fact stands that "Vanishing Point" makes for a great car-film soundtrack, and traces of it can be heard in the massive highway scene of "The Matrix Reloaded." It's an album that will appeal to both fans of electronica and Britrock-revival. Primal Scream even sounds a bit like Oasis at times on this album, even if it's a version of Oasis that Noel Gallagher would hate.

INTERESTING FACT: The Dodge Challenger was the musclecar of choice for the film, mainly because Fox "owed Chrysler a favor" for giving them cheap rentals for previous flicks.

Kowalski by Primal Scream on Grooveshark

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