Bobby Gillespie formed Primal Scream in the mid-’80s while drumming for noise-pop pioneers the Jesus and Mary Chain. Primal Scream pursued a different kind of indie pop — one that was sweet and jangly, not dark and menacing — and while these early records were quite influential on the C-86 indie scene in the U.K. in the mid-’80s, Gillespie abandoned the sound at the close of the ’80s after being introduced to acid house by Alan McGee, the head of Creation Records. Scream signed with Creation and cut Screamadelica with producers Andrew Weatherall and Hugo Nicholson.
Screamadelica’s fusion of indie pop and dance broke down musical boundaries and changed the face of British pop music in the ’90s, helping to make dance and techno acceptable to the rock mainstream. Primal Scream confounded expectations with Give Out But Don’t Give Up, the 1994 sequel to Screamadelica which abandoned dance for classic rock boogie. This abrupt switch in sound established a pattern the band would follow for the rest of their career, where they’d pursue a different direction from a subsequent album, but the twin releases of 1997’s heady dance album Vanishing Point and its experimental successor XTRMNTR pushed the group back into the underground, where they’d concentrate on making art-pop on such albums as 2006’s Riot City Blues and 2013’s More Light.
Most recently, Gillespie collaborated with Savages’ Jehnny Beth for their record Utopian Ashes. Bobby Gillespie and Jehnny Beth’s collection of duets is not a break-up record, but it does tell the story of a married couple facing up to love breaking down, the impossibility of real communication and other unavoidable outcomes of a full life. It is not a Primal Scream album, although it features Primal Scream’s Andrew Innes on guitar, Martin Duffy on piano and Darrin Mooney on drums, with Jehnny Beth’s musical partner Johnny Hostile on bass.
It draws on the tradition of Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris’s Grievous Angel, George Jones and Tammy Wynette’s We Go Together and other country soul classics to deal, in a straight-talking fashion, with the heavy realities of love, loss, disconnection and ultimately redemption.