“You can’t sing, you can’t play, you look awful,” a sneering A&R man told a hapless bunch of pop hopefuls on the other side of his desk in a fondly-remembered 1984 KitKat TV ad. “You’ll go a long way!”

Primal Scream

It’s hard not to apply the dictum to Bobby Gillespie. An earnest stick insect who can’t carry a tune in a bucket, can’t play an instrument and was dad-dancing at 23, he has parlayed his limitations into a 30-year pop career through sheer willpower.

Primal Scream have always tried on musical styles much as Mr Benn selected outfits from his magic wardrobe, so this 2CD/2x2LP singles collection naturally sounds comedically uneven. It’s also selective: their paper-thin 1985 debut, All Fall Down, is slyly omitted.

So they jangle through Velocity Girl, Weatherall their way across Loaded and Come Together, ape the Stones on Rocks and Jailbird, mutate into techno terrorists on Swastika Eyes, and clone MC5 on 2013 before ending with the daft bluster of 100% Or Nothing from 2016’s Chaosmosis.

Gillespie’s weedy vocals are a constant throughout, but here’s the strange thing: it’s enjoyable. You admire their chutzpah.

They get away with it. Somehow, astonishingly, Primal Scream went a long way.



Ian Gittins


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