Primal Scream are a fascinatingly uneven band. It’s not just that from album to album it’s hard to tell what you’re going to get – the band has done everything from jangly C86 pop to pummeling electronic rock to Stones-worship - but that within each album itself there are a series of highs and lows that make it hard to fully praise anything they’ve ever released. Even my personal favorite, 2000’s XTRMNTR for the record, is at best a glorious mess with at least one track that should just be expurgated from existence for the better of the community. I may be in the minority in saying this, but Screamadelica is one of their most frustrating albums. It tries so hard for notability that the one time it hits it on the head seems to cloud its biggest supporters to the fact that nothing else besides “Loaded” is particularly great. Some of it is good, most of it is boring and on its second and third most revered tracks, opener “Movin’ On Up” and 8-minute slog “Come Together,” it’s kind of awful. So going in to Dixie-Narco with that in mind it’s slightly impressive that it manages to stand as a fairly decent release with a few caveats.
Of course if I were to judge it on its opening tracks things would be quite different. Even leaving aside the decision to lead off with the exact same track that got Screamadelica started on the precisely wrong foot – I’m all about weighting in favor of new material in this sort of release – “Stone My Soul” is a pretty weak start to the new material here. There’s a tendency to view EP’s like this as the castoffs from their parent LP, material too weak to hack it against the more well-heeled songs that got chosen for prominence, and “Stone My soul” is exactly this. It’s not only weak melodically and lyrically (though that’s par for the course in PS terms) but it seems to cover ground already well covered on Screamadelica-proper – “Damaged” in particular, one of the LP’s brighter spots – without adding anything new to the delivery. And “Movin; On Up” is still among my least favorite songs in the band’s catalog, a barely written quasi-gospel number performed artlessly and produced in a way that highlights its most troublesome qualities. So yeah, not the best start to a release between those two.
The remaining tracks though are enough to push me towards recommending this EP over Screamadelica, the main reason being that instead of reaching for the gospel/rock/electronic synthesis and missing the mark, both “Carry Me Home” and “Screamadelica” manage to fuse the influences in a palatable way. “Carry Me Home”” especially is a surprise on this front because instead of relegating the gospel influence to a choral backing it sounds like an attempt to write an actual gospel tune, and while Gillespie’s voice isn’t necessarily up to it the rest of the song hits the nail right on the head. It’s a subtle, bluesy comedown track along the lines of the last half of Screamadelica, but there’s a hell of a lot more soul to it which makes it much easier to take. Mostly though, the EP gets saved by the 11-minute beast that is “Screamadelica.” Why the band chose not to include it on the LP that it’s name came from I’ll never understand, because it’s the most perfect iteration of what I feel the band were trying for there; equal play being given to the electronic and gospel influences that made Screamadelica so revolutionary sounding, both being lost and refound in a psychedelic haze that recalls the band’s previous output. It’s essentially the equal of “Loaded” which was the only track that kept me from parting with the LP for a long time, and a 12” with those two tracks and nothing more would merit at least a 9 from me, and as it stands right now it makes what could have been a mere curiosity in the band’s discography to something nearly essential due to its presence.