At its most potent, the Scream’s music is about messing with the tenets of rock’n’roll classicism, through vivid experiments in dub, Krautrock, House and distorted avant rock through to the more unorthodox end of their recorded output that Gillespie, for want of a better phrase, describes simply as “weirdo music.”
“His enthusiasm and excitement for the beautiful treasures of American obscura is our common ground,” says Robert Plant, one of the band’s many high-profile collaborators, who played harmonica on their 2002 Evil Heat album. “From Hazel Adkins through to Townes Van Zandt they dig deep, mixing everything and everybody with their own spook and rhythm which makes them a real beacon from Mars. An eccentric British masterpiece.”
What I’ve heard so far of Beautiful Future – their ninth studio album and their first for B-Unique – seems to find the Scream moving forward once again. You can perhaps attribute this to the fairly withering reviews dished out to their last album, Riot City Blues, a perfect example of the Scream in default mode and at their least engaging, retreading familiar rock’n’roll riffs – Faces, Exile… era Stones, 13th Floor Elevators – with, yes, a lot of energy, but little of the imagination that underscores their most exciting work.
This time, though, there’s the sinister electronic grooves of “I Love To Hurt (You Love To Be Hurt)” – a duet with CCS’ Lovefoxxx – and a striking, string-laden Philly soul number called “Uptown“. There’s also a song based around a cut-up of a guitar riff from Queens Of The Stone Age’s Josh Homme, the process behind which sounds so mind-bogglingly complicated that Gillespie has to describe it to me twice, and even then he’s not entirely certain he’s explained it properly.
But if Gillespie and the Scream have made a career out of shifting through musical genres, it’s safe to say that even a casual follower of the band’s story will be aware of their reputation for excess.
“All of my family in Scotland worked on the shipyards,” says Linda Thompson, who duets with Gillespie on a cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Over And Over” on Beautiful Future. “That kind of Glaswegian working class person has a tremendous soul and they have tremendous sense of humour, and Bobby’s got all that, and also that kind of madness that a lot of us have: ‘Shall I have one drink or 500? I’ll just go with the 500.’ That slight tendency to over-indulge. I like that in a man!”