Primal Scream: A video history | Virgin Media
Primal Scream: A video history

Primal Scream: A video historyby JR Moores

16/03/2016Music

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As true Glaswegian chameleons, Primal Scream radically transform their sound for each new record. Since 1982, they've dabbled in everything from indie-rock to industrial techno, with only the occasional song that does actually sound like The Rolling Stones. Their videos provide the perfect guide to these musical and visual progressions.

Their strongest albums were sequenced with a narrative in mind and their conceptual videos, too, are decidedly cinematic. In fact, Primal Scream's videography may even have inspired subsequent major media works, as we hope to show here. The clips are also noticeable for their recurring use of strong female protagonists, only some of whom are played by Kate Moss. As we await their 11th studio album Chaosmosis (out 18 March), here's a handy primer to the Primal Scream video catalogue.

Higher Than The Sun (1991)

After inauspicious indie beginnings, Primal Scream took a giant leap forward with Screamadelica, a record that made the line between dance and rock music more blurred than the blurry effects in this blurry video. So innovative was Higher Than The Sun that it was hailed as "the most important record since Anarchy In The UK" by none other than Bobby Gillespie, frontman of Primal Scream. Complementing the E-fuelled psychedelia of this video is the slow-motion live footage of the band who, in their snazziest disco shirts, appear to be performing a far livelier song than the hazy single in question.

Clearly influenced: Drug scenes in Skins; Kevin & Perry Go Large

 

Rocks (1994)

Primal Scream get a lot of stick for copying The Rolling Stones even though that's only a handful of tracks from three decades of constant reinvention. Besides, in 1994 Primal Scream were far better at being The Rolling Stones than the real Rolling Stones were, with their lacklustre Voodoo Lounge nonsense. The 'Scream also had time on their side and, in this catwalk-themed video, their androgynous singer gives his fashion model co-stars a run for their money with his long dark hair and bright red lipstick. Bobby Gill-sexy more like.

Clearly influenced: Britain's Next Top Model; Zoolander; the fashion-themed episode of Death In Paradise from the other week

 

Kowalski (1997)

1997's Vanishing Point was conceived as an alternative soundtrack to the "hippy music" score from the cult 70s movie of the same name. The video for its lead single was also firmly filmic, like some mash-up between The Italian Job, Thelma & Louise, Faster Pussycat Kill Kill and an unusually thrilling episode of The Bill. Famous models Kate Moss and Devon Aoki steal a classic car and drive around London kicking arse, while Primal Scream hide indoors playing an intense game of dominoes. The video's "plot" was scripted by Trainspotting's Irvine Welsh, presumably on the back of a beermat in Camden Town.

Clearly influenced: Guy Ritchie's filmography; Beyoncé and Lady Gaga's Telephone

 

Star (1997)

A mellow single needn't negate an action-packed promo and for this Vanishing Point ballad ex-Stone Roses bassist Mani runs away from a helicopter, jumps into a swimming pool, smashes through a window, sneaks through a fence like Dennis The Menace and reunites with Gillespie and co for an impromptu sing-along with some friendly locals. Notice how at this time the 'Scream's fame-shy guitarist Andrew Innes had taken to wearing a pilot's helmet in every video. A certain French disco duo had taken note.

Clearly influenced: Run Lola Run; the Crank franchise; Daft Punk

 

Swastika Eyes (1999)

In 1999, Gillespie declared that "all vowels are fascist, man," proving that he was becoming increasingly politicised or had lost badly at Scrabble. Instead of changing every lyric to "pfft", "grr", "hmm" or "nth", the band temporarily renamed themselves PRML SCRM and unleashed an unholy racket of a record called XTRMNTR. Combining two popular 'Scream themes, the Swastika Eyes promo featured more famous models and more running. Soldiers sprint through a muddy forest, arrive at a mess table-cum-makeshift catwalk and get very excited as a succession of parading supermodels emerge from a tent to slap their faces. Then Sophie Dahl mows them all down with a machine gun, the silly boys.

Clearly influenced: Spring Breakers; Mad Max Fury Road

 

Miss Lucifer (2002)

Accompanying this cyberpunk paean to a "tattooed panther" with "leather boots" and "nazi hat" are a trio of sexy demons who emerge from the floor of an underground car park. This being a Primal Scream vid, they don't have to search too long for a hedonistic party to gatecrash. Seduced by the main succubus, a topless man is led back to the sensuous location of the car park, where he is horrified to learn that she actually has quite a scary spiked tail and all horns and stuff. Luckily, a godly lightning bolt banishes her back to Hell. I cast you out, sexy car park lady.

Clearly influenced: Jennifer's Body; all those films with Kate Beckinsale in them

 

Some Velvet Morning (2003)

Kate Moss was promoted to vocalist for this electroclash cover of Lee Hazlewood and Nancy Sinatra's 60s psych duet. In front of inky animations, the besuited Bobby whispers into a microphone as Kate sits enigmatically in her nightie. As Moss starts to dance, Bobby rises from his stool like Westlife on the key change. "Way too sexy for listening," offers one YouTuber, "[it] makes the ears horny."  "CRAP VOCALS BY BOBBY AND KATE," writes another frustrated user, "HER SULTRY LOOKS DO NOTHING." The commenter doth protest too much, methinks.

Clearly influenced: Lana Del Rey; countless perfume ads

 

Country Girl (2006)

Presumably Kate Moss was busy so instead this video stars Helena Mattsson from Species: The Awakening. Her character checks into a motel, snorts drugs, swigs Jack Daniel's, fries a steak, dresses as a cowgirl, shoplifts more Jack Daniel's, hangs around in bars assaulting people with bottles and pool cues, does a wee on some rubble and vomits next to a bin. Her antisocial behaviour is surpassed only by the sheer state of Bobby Gillespie's bright blue suit.

Clearly influenced: Nashville; Party Down South; Elle King

 

2013 (2013, obviously)

Remember the year when this nine-minute techno-Stooges psych-jazz epic inspired us to overthrow the crooked establishment and usher in a happier society based on liberty, equality and universal admiration for David Holmes's production skills? OK, so that didn't happen, perhaps because 2013's avant-garde video raised more questions than answers. Why are those scarfed heads kissing? Who's tied up in rope? Why are people being operated on? Why are moths being operated on? Who's the bloke in the bath? And, for the love of God, where is Kate Moss?

Clearly influenced: your weird butterfly-torturing mate's dystopian art collage