If there’s a point where the 90s end and the 00s begin, it’s probably XTRMNTR. For me, at least: I’m very aware of how futile it is to read big-picture significance into records. Nonetheless, this felt like a seismic turning point when it came out, and even though I seldom revisit it now, the ripples of its impact are clearly carved into my consciousness. I remember a friend and I both buying it on the day it came out, one of us on vinyl, the other on CD, and sitting and playing it, soaking it in, feeling that it was important. That it was a work of art.
In some ways, XTRMNTR is an angry, inverted version of Screamadelica: it starts with a funky tune catchy enough to be a single; the centerpiece is a remix of a song from the previous record that completely recontextualises it and acts as an aesthetic lead for the rest of this record; one track appears twice in different form on either side of the vinyl; and all the acidhouse hippy drippy LSD & MDMA love that rippled through Screamadelica has been spun out and replaced with thick doses of paranoia, political instability, and rage. It’s as if the fallout from the party turned toxic and infected us.
All thorugh this record, Primal Scream hit peaks of their career. The hellishly compressed scree of guitar that comes courtesy of Kevin Shields during “Accelerator” is the most outrageously rock’n’roll thing they’ve done, and “Keep Your Dreams” is the most beautiful and serene. “Shoot Speed/Kill Light” the most perfect, streaming motorik hit I’ve ever experienced. “Blood Money” actually does manage to capture the spirit of Miles Davis circa 71. The “MBV Arkestra” is… indescribable. I even like the track where Bobby Gillespie asthmatically raps a string of swear words like a playground showoff. The only thing wrong with this record is the decreasingly effervescent dribble that has been Primal Scream’s albums ever since.
As ever, the people involved in this record who aren’t members of Primal Scream seem to be more important to its sonic signature than those who are. The Chemical Brothers. Kevin Shields. Bernard Sumner. Keith Tenniswood. David Holmes. Tim Goldsworthy. Brendan Lynch. Adrian Sherwood. Jagz Kooner. You could easily feel that XTRMNTR had invented all the discopunk, indie-electro, and Joy Division revivalism that permeated the 00s, and you could argue that Primal Scream (and friends) did it better. The DFA practically met on of this album. I wont even mention the state of the world since its release.
Such was the power of this album that I pretty much ignored Kid A later in 2000, because this had already done everything that record was meant to do, only angrier, dancier, louder, more fun. My favourite track on Kid A sounded like an out-take from this record. In my narrative of the 00s, this is the record that most shaped what followed, and which is deserving of praise. But Primal Scream are a joke of a band, their schtick long since descended into pastiche and so far gone as to be beyond criticism. I’ve simply refused to engage with their recent records, because what’s the point? But this, and Screamadelica, and Vanishing Point, almost justify their position, almost make me believe the hype. What an album. What a weird, stupid, laughable band.