Album Reviews

Primal Scream – Riot City Blues

(Columbia) UK release date: 5 June 2006


A few things the new album from Primal Scream isn’t: clever, ground-breaking, genre redefining, a bold new step into a brave new sonic world. Oh yeah, and what’s the opposite of clich�d?

A few things it most definitely is: energetic, catchy, rollicking, gloriously enjoyable, gloriously sleazy, and a low down good time. Oh, yeah, and what’s the opposite of boring?

Done. Pick your side. Choose your weapon. Because that’s all you really need to know. If the idea of The Scream pretending to be The Stones (again) sends you into a cold sweat, run. Hide. Riot City Blues will not be high on your list of things to listen to whilst finishing an essay on Marxism.

If not, and you’re kind of interested to see what the opportunity to climb down from an opinionated high horse and splash gleefully about in the puddles of convention does to a band, then you should be fine. In fact, you’ll probably “have a gooooooooood time”, as they sing on Dolls (Sweet Rock And Roll).

It’s difficult to know what the most astonishing thing about that song is; the fact that this bunch of forty-something fathers manage to totally bust the third law of partying (the quality of your night is inversely proportional to the number of times someone tells you how good it’s going to be), or the fact that they manage to make Alison Mosshart from The Kills put down her cigarette for long enough to sound vaguely interested, or even that “let’s have a goooooood time/la-la-la-la-la-la-la” is amongst the least stupid lyrics on show.

The whole dumb-is-more ethos fundamental to Riot City Blues comes to an apex (or a nadir) far early than that, with Suicide Sally & Johnny Guitar. Bobby’s already told us he thinks it’s “fucking hilarious”, and it better be. Because if it wasn’t meant as a joke, it’d be awful. But with the ‘just-kidding’ caveat attached, it becomes a grin-inducing, force-ten punk-a-thon, zipping along pulling the collar of its leather jacket up and winking at the audience.

Elsewhere When The Bomb Drops sounds like an agoraphobic Tomorrow Never Knows, trapped in a box and kept awake for four days, and while Little Death may be the only song on Riot City Blues on nodding terms with Evil Heat, in the face of the competition, it’s a question of longing for the snaking charming atmospherics to end so we can get the party started again.

Really, it’s no contest. Not when we’ve got a harmonica to parp like a herd of honky-tonk geese on We’re Gonna Boogie, a mandolin solo to attach to the end of the finest pop song they’ve written on Country Girl or the hip-shaking, seven-tenths Rolling Stones, two-tenths Jerry Lee Lewis and one-tenth Mud strut that is the totally irresistible Nitty Gritty to shake it to.

Somehow, someway, they get away with it. The blatant half-inching of styles. The jaw-dropping lyrics. The heard-it-all-before set of influences. Which means that while on paper Riot City Blues may be a terrible album, in reality it just patently isn’t. Stupid, clich�d, utterly ridiculous for sure, but done with so much pizazz that you can’t help but fall for its charms. Basically, it’s only Primal Scream, and you’ve got to like it.


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