Clamorous bells ring in the changes on Primal Scream’s ninth album, signalling that changes are afoot, and nothing is as it seems. Coming after the disappointing retro-rock and roll-isms of Riot City Blues, Beautiful Future has everything to prove, and gets stuck in straight away. The Stones swagger has been replaced by motorik rhythms and mechanical guitar, but the warmth of the previous record remains, with the aforementioned bells, marimbas, and even strings at one point. Primal Scream completely re-invigorated, energy pulsing through the artificial heart of this album. Even Bobby Gillespie, never the strongest vocalist or songwriter, seems on top form, his presence imbuing almost every song with personality, and forcing it to connect with the listener.
Primal Scream have never made any secret of their history as rock ‘n’ roll historians, and this album is no different, drawing from Krautrock pioneers Neu!, as well as the sexy sounds of Philadelphia soul music. ‘Uptown’ is a lesson in dynamics, with strings wrapping themselves round the supple bass of Mani Mountfield, whilst Gillespie gets hot and bothered, almost pouring himself over the song.
However, as with almost every Primal Scream album, it’s not all good. There’s a slightly saggy mid-section, with ‘Suicide Bomb’ plodding along, achieving little, and towards the end, it begins to hark back to some of their more ‘Rolling Stones-lite’ material, all country rock grooves and twangy lead guitar. Which is fine if you like that sort of thing, but uncomfortably jarring when placed in context with the modernism of the rest of the record.
However, when Primal Scream stop looking over their shoulder to the past, they have an unerring ability to warp the laws of time and space. If they say this is our beautiful future, you better believe them.