Most Valuable Play: Solar Bears

John kowalski of Dublin, Ireland’s Solar Bears explains his attachment to Primal Scream’s ‘XTRMNTR.’


MVP features artists and their favorite albums.

In this edition, John Kowalski of Dublin, Ireland’s Solar Bears explores Primal Scream‘s XTRMNTR.

The reason I am choosing XTRMNTR is because its light has not faded in any way since its release in 1999. It didn’t leave my Discman for a full year, to the extent that friends stopped asking what I was listening to because they knew the answer. I still return to it regularly and hear new things.

This was at a time when The Scream were at their peak, boosted by Kevin Shields (My Bloody Valentine) on guitar and Mani on bass in full flight. I had heard “Kill All Hippies”…

…on an Irish music TV show called No Disco and was enamored instantly. I knew right away it was the kind of music I had wanted to hear my entire life.

The sense of adventure and bloody mindedness is what sets it apart. It captured the fears and paranoia of the new millennium far more than any Hollywood movie ever could. For whatever reason I had cut myself off from people and the lyrics resonated with me strongly, they were comforting.

How the record is put together has dictated how I feel about writing music and piecing tracks side by side. Anything goes. Genres become blurred to the degree that they become void. The only things that really matter are sentiment and execution.

They had the attitude that if a song required something particular they would simply draft someone in that specializes in that area, resulting in the likes of Tim Holmes (Death in Vegas) and The Chemicals doing mixes and Bernard Sumner (New Order) for the guitar solo in “Shoot Speed/Kills Light.”

This stance enabled a truly kaleidoscopic effect. The LP is boundless, ignoring convention and achieving cohesion nonetheless.

The artwork is peerless too, created by Julian House of Ghostbox fame. It’s just not the type of thing you are going to walk past in a shop. He is someone I have followed consistently ever since, that was the starting point and the genesis for a lot of my interest in graphic work.

Primal Scream - XTRMNTR

I went to see them play after the album came out, and it remains the standard which I judge everything else. Truly awe inspiring.

Download “Oceans Bleeding Through,” a bonus track from Solar Bears’ Supermigration LP here.

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