Here’s a forgotten LP that deserves a bit more respect. I get that it’s a bit of a stylistic/nihilistic mess, a bit unfocused, a bit shrill and lairy, a bit likely to throw up on your shoes, but let us embrace it anyway; Primal Scream Evil Heat, one big glorious bastard of an album.
Let’s cut straight to the tofu here, my favourite track and a real Primal Scream all-timer for me, is track 6 – ‘The Lord Is My Shotgun’. It’s a weird rubberized numb mumbling cyberblues finger up your ass*, just the way you like it. That weird, metallic shrieking thing about half way through? oh that’s just a passing minstrel from Wolverhampton playing a heavily distorted harmonica.
When Evil Heat was released in 2002 it suffered in comparison to, the mighty, XTRMNTR and I understand that; the very best tracks on the latter blow away anything on the former, but I’d still fight Evil Heat‘s cause, I find it a better, more listenable album. Plus it has a place in my heart because Primal Scream, with Kevin Shields on board, were just a brilliant live band on this tour.
There’s real messy invention going on everywhere you look here. Opener ‘Deep Hit Of Morning Sun’ it really doesn’t sound like anything else I’d ever heard, then or now. It reeks of psychotropic excess, woozy sitar and tabla haunt the track, created by doing clever stuff to guitars and shit like that; sounding a lot like an outtake from Apocalypse Now. This is exactly where psychedelia needed to be in 2002. Morning, my ass! If anyone involved in making this record ever saw the morning sun they’d have turned to ash immediately, their soul scattered to the winds.
Evil Heat, being Evil Heat, then lurches into the piledriving S&M&M’s of ‘Miss Lucifer’** and then the sweetly gentle, gently sweet, blissed out pulsing krautrock Beatleisms of ‘Autobahn 66’. I’ve always loved the latter, it’s a real balm for the troubled soul.
Scattered around elsewhere we have Jim Reid lending some numbness to ‘Detroit’, just helping out his ex-drummer, I guess. It’s not much of a track, despite a stonking glam beat. ‘Rise’ does pretty much the same thing, but scores higher for sounding a little more Teutonic and panicked – it still wouldn’t have made the cut on XTRMNTR.
Far, far, far better is ‘City’ a punkin’, mewlin’, jonesin’ paean to speed – like a lot of my favourite songs. Apparently Kevin Shields plays ‘skunk guitar’ on this track, I’m sure he does. Whatever, this is a welcome shot in the arm for Evil Heat, adrenaline all the way. The morale being that if you’re going to entertain me through the medium of drug music, make it something spiky and UP, if you’d be so kind.
Kate Moss collaborates with the Primals to desecrate one of my very favourite tracks next on ‘Some Velvet Morning’. It’s all a bit surface-y for my tastes, I can’t see past the surface sheen of the beats and the whole genius of the original was located for me Lee Hazlewood’s weird, spiteful delivery. Poor.
Then we hit the gas again for ‘Skull X’, which isn’t the best song they have ever cut but at least the band sound urgent and engaged again, Gillespie sneering lines that contain at least one of the words: shotgun, baby, suicide, do it again. There’s some genuinely hostile guitar slinging going on too, mixed right in your face for maximum listen discomfort.
In the true spirit of Evil Heat-ery we’re launched back into space for ‘A Scanner Darkly’ and ‘Space Blues #2’^. The former is a jolly electronic romp with a decent tune and the latter is an achingly sad, spare lamenting cry for help, ending Evil Heat on a surprisingly churchy note; it is quite brilliant.
If that all sounds like a bit of a mish-mash, that’s because it is. The quality of the songs does rise and fall a bit too. Yet, despite all that Evil Heat is a fun, very listenable, really good LP from a band seemingly intent on exploring every possible combination of pharmaceutical and musical joy.
All that and Robert Plant on harp. ‘Nuff said.
PS: The long version of ‘Autobahn 66’ is way better than the video version, but I like the vid:
*never settle for less, readers. Write to your elected representatives now.
**best dealt with, in full sex panther mode, elsewhere.
^so called because it is a sequel to a tune by indie obscuritans Felt, called ‘Space Blues’. Martin Duffy, Primal Scream’s keyboard player, was in Felt.