Bobby Gillespie and Jehnny Beth: Utopian Ashes review – a welcome surprise

During the course of a 35-year career, “sensitive” and “mature” are not adjectives that have often been wheeled out to describe Bobby Gillespie’s lyrics. Infatti, il Primal Scream lead singer’s canon of work has generally favoured MC5-lite rebel posturing over insight and depth. All of which makes this collaboration with former Savages frontwoman Jehnny Beth such a welcome surprise. The pair have written a set of songs located within the wreckage of a marriage that is falling apart, with both parties torn between looking back with remorse and nostalgia on what’s been lost, and moving on and making a new start alone. We’ve come a long way from Bomb the Pentagon.

Recorded with Gillespie’s Scream bandmates, as well as Beth’s regular foil Johnny Hostile, as much care has gone into the arrangements as the lyrics. Opener Chase It Down is a gorgeous slice of southern soul, made all the more powerful for its devastating “I don’t even love you any more” line. Grievances are aired in the despairing Living a Lie. Your Heart Will Always Be Broken, nel frattempo, recalls Gram Parsons’s work with Emmylou Harris. Throughout, there are echoes of the rootsier moments from Give Out But Don’t Give Up, but with the earlier swagger replaced by vulnerability. It’s as pleasing as it is unexpected.

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