First Listen: Primal Scream, 'More Light'

NPR icon by Stephen Thompson
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Some bands survive decades by locating a sound and sticking with it, giving fans what they want the entire time. But the Scottish group Primal Scream has survived a remarkably lengthy and tumultuous existence through relentless zigzagging and reinvention. At times, that's meant chasing trends — it's been a dance-pop band, a group of psychedelic wanderers, a garage-rock throwback and many points in between, depending on the cultural winds at the time — but Primal Scream has shown remarkable doggedness in staying alive for more than three decades. Throw in the group members' battles with heroin addiction, and it's remarkable that they're still alive, let alone recording albums.

Out June 18, More Light was five years in the making, but it sounds like the product of a band that took its time. Positively overstuffed at 69 minutes — and bursting right out of the gate with a nine-minute epic in "2013" — the album plays out like a larger-than-life celebration of survival. Like a more political and less grand (but no less ambitious) companion piece to Spiritualized's masterful 2012 album Sweet Heart Sweet Light, it's the work of musicians who've got every reason to feel lucky to be alive.

As if the sheer volume of lush, chugging rock 'n' roll weren't enough, More Light also features guest appearances by Robert Plant (singing in "River of Pain") and My Bloody Valentine's Kevin Shields, both of whom have collaborated with Primal Scream in the past. But this is a Primal Scream record through and through: erratic and given to excess, but still reaching for transcendence — and vital enough to find what it's looking for.

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