Album Reviews: Riot City Blues (Bonus Tracks) by Primal ScreamI will start off with this: my music background gave me no reason to love or hate Riot City Blues. I've heard of Primal Scream and their legacy, but had not heard a lick of a lick of guitar by the band. I'm a young'n. I didn't live for the '90s house craze in London that Primal Scream rode -- I was in middle school at the time. On the other hand, I've heard plenty of the Rolling Stones, the primary influence of PS's rock and roll sound.
But when I popped in this disk I didn't hear Primal Scream's take on the Rolling Stones. Instead, I heard their take on Franz Ferdinand, The Strokes, and The Killers, bands which were influenced by Primal Scream. If Riot City Blues is singer Bobby Gillespie and co.'s attempt to dually echo their idols and match their followers, it's a good stab, but it doesn't fully penetrate on either side.
This is a rock and roll album, with a bunch of the blues thrown in. There are songs that stomp, songs that rollick, and jangly acoustic-electric guitars covering them all. And there are "babys," "girls," "honeys," and lots of the "woo." They will excite you at first. You will pump your fist and sing along. If you didn't, excuse me, we're just not on the same level of rock and roll. The album leads off with the upbeat single "Country Girl," with Gillespie asking, "what can a poor boy do?" - fittingly, a famous line from a Stones song. What Primal Scream does for the rest of Riot City Blues is make an album that is solid musically. Everything for the rock and roll revisionist is packaged in its rightful places.
Back in the Stones' prime, the sound they carved was edgy, exciting, and energetic. But Primal Scream just can't harness that same level of energy, something the young whippersnappers of Franz and co. handle with ease these days. I heard Primal Scream was once experimental, but they seem to have traded in that edge for another slice of the same old, even if the same old sounds good.
The album is set in Riot City, where partying is at a premium. Riot city is inhabited by "Suicide Sally & Johnny Guitar," and we are told "Hell's Comin' Down." From here, Gillespie's lyrics embody party talk, lots a promises, but little to say. While the Strokes came to us with tales of NYC's disaffected youth and Franz asked us to take them out, we learn little of why we would get the blues in riot city.
Maybe Primal Scream don't want us to know. We don't need a reason, as Gillespie tells us -- we're here to have a good time. In the end, Riot City Blues is like a frat party -- there's nothing you'd want to take home and live with for the rest of your life, but there's enough promise of action to keep you interested. - David Pessah, kNewIt06
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