American garage rock godhead Jack White has recruited Primal Scream’s frontman to his cult label.
The White Stripes, Raconteurs and Dead Weather legend is the not-so hidden hand behind a teaming up of Bobby Gillespie and French singer Jehnny Beth, who fronts London-based post-punk revivalists Savages.
Set to hit the record shops on July 2, the duo have collaborated on an album entitled Utopian Ashes, which is being released on White’s Third Man Records imprint.
It’ll be the first new material from Glasgow-born Gillespie since Primal Scream’s Pledge Music-funded 11th studio album Chaosmosis in 2016, although the neo-psychedelic outfit have kept product on the shelves during the past half decade by banging out a lost recordings reboot of their 1994 LP Give Out But Don’t Give Up and a bumper greatest hits set Maximum Rock ‘N’ Roll (The Singles).
Cementing a connection
Far removed from the kind of electro sound clash that such a coupling might have promised, Utopian Ashes cements a connection between Bobby G and Beth — whose real name is Camille Berthomier — that’s been developing since 2015 when they performed live with synth-punk pioneers Suicide in London.
The Savages singer has previously also joined the Scream on stage for a duet of Nancy Sinatra / Lee Hazelwood touchstone Some Velvet Morning, which the Scots band originally covered with supermodel Kate Moss.
The sessions that’ve led to the album started around four years ago, with Gillespie’s long-serving Scream cohorts Andrew Innes, Martin Duffy and Darrin Mooney all involved, along with Beth’s Savages writing partner Nicolas Congé, aka Johnny Hostile.
Imagining a marriage breakdown
Regular touring has also kept the Scream buoyant in recent years pre-pandemic, and Courier Country audiences regaled in their appearance at V&A Dundee’s opening 3D Festival in September 2018 plus a visit to Perth Concert Hall just over a year later.
According to Bobby, the ear-opening new release is an exploration of the loss, miscommunication and emotional inarticulacy that an imaginary married couple experience as they realise that their relationship is breaking down.
“I was thinking about two people living alone, together but apart, existing and suffering in a psychic malaise, who plough on because of responsibilities and commitments,” he declares.
“It’s about the impermanence of everything — an existential fact that everyone has to face at some point in their lives. I wanted to pain back into music. I wasn’t hearing a lot of it in modern rock music.”
Anything but painful listening
And the good news is, the first tasters from the country soul offering are anything but painful listening, setting aside the exquisite druggie chic in so much of Gillespie’s Primals output for a newfound late-career maturity that’s less about hedonism than stark sobriety.
Listening to the single Remember We Were Lovers, Jehnny’s resonant vocals prove an absolute revelation opposite Bobby’s own world-weary crooning.
Led on its gently winding course by some gorgeously delicate keys from Duffy, the track has the feel of Nick Cave in one of his more mellow moments.
Sure-fire radio hit
Lyrics about standing at the edge of a cliff with madness in your eyes add a dramatic feel to the sure-fire radio hit, before a marvellously skew-whiff Innes guitar solo makes way to a big brassy finish.
The song’s video is a moody black and white affair that sees our lovelorn hero and heroine looking suitably contemplative while stalking the woods and the beach dressed in their best trenchcoats.
Another taster, Chase It Down, builds on the theme and takes the compelling psychodrama up a further notch.
It’s all a far cry from Screamadelica, but it could well be Gillespie’s most interesting work since the industrial stylings of XTRMNTR more than two decades ago.
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