Radical critiques of American foreign policy with a good beat that you can dance to are few and far between. When it comes to the union of politics and dance music, most practitioners have an Adornoesque aversion to the body-movin’ efficacy of rapturous, four-to-the-floor beats. What we are left with tends to fall into one of two camps: the dyspeptic caterwaul of Atari Teenage Riot or the twee kitsch of Bis. Primal Scream’s Exterminator introduces a third dimension by fusing punk-flavored anarchism with an ecstatic big beat thump, most successfully on the album’s first single, “Swastika Eyes.”
Exterminator, the Primals’ sixth album, is as marked by antiauthoritarian rage as their first hit record, Screamadelica, was by rave-in-the-woods idyll. Thankfully, Primal Scream’s dance floor politics are considerably less myopic than those found on one of techno’s first protest songs, “Their Law,” The Prodigy’s 1995 anthem against the anti-rave Criminal Justice Bill. Looking beyond the parties, Exterminator takes its aim against “a military industrial / illusion of democracy” and passes on the drugs to ensure one’s “mind’s a weapon immune from infection.” (This from a band that once sang “Hallucinogens can open me or untie me” on “Higher than the Sun.”) True, most of the lyrics verge on revolutionary chic, but the Primals make use of their liner notes as an intervention to promote the campaign to free Satpal Ram, who is serving a life sentence in a British prison for murder after defending himself from an unprovoked racist attack (see http://www.asiandubfoundation.com/satpal/).
This album does not rock by politics alone. “Shoot Speed/Kill Light” is propelled by throbbing feedback that hearkens back to vocalist Bobby Gillespie’s early days as a drummer for The Jesus & Mary Chain, while the instrumental “Blood Money” plods defiantly ahead with a riff from ex-Stone Roses bassist Mani that sounds like it was nicked from Joy Division, racing through increasingly dense layers of free jazz horns and synth pop melodies. Much credit is due to the cast of ace producers including Kevin Shields (My Bloody Valentine), The Chemical Brothers, David Holmes, Jagz Kooner (Sabres of Paradise), and more. Yet, nothing can save “Pills,” a collaboration with the brilliant Dan the Automator (Dr. Octagon, Handsome Boy Modeling School) that ranks alongside Duran Duran’s cover of “White Lines (Don’t Do It)” as one of the most embarrassing moments of British hip-hop.
Sadly, Primal Scream’s latest will be the last of Creation. After a recent partnership with Sony proved unsatisfactory, founder Alan McGee decided to close down his influential record label that broke new ground with early noise pop acts like The Jesus & Mary Chain and The Pastels, established the pantheon of shoegazer saints including My Bloody Valentine, Ride, Teenage Fanclub, and Slowdive, and most famously gave the bad boys of Oasis their start. At least with Exterminator‘s din of fuzzy guitar and dark electronic sound, the label gets a fittingly cathartic farewell.