The album was a significant departure from the band's early indie rock sound, drawing inspiration from the house music scene (and associated drugs) that was becoming popular at the time of its production. The band enlisted house DJs Andrew Weatherall and Terry Farley on producing duties, although the album also contained a wide range of other influences including gospel and dub.
Although the band wrote a track also called Screamadelica, it does not appear on the album. The ten-minute dance track was also produced by Andrew Weatherall and sung by Denise Johnson. It appears on the Dixie Narco EP released in 1992, and is featured in the opening credits of the now rare ScreamadelicaVHS video tape.
"Movin' on Up" opens the album. It is in the key of C and is similar in style to the Rolling Stones. The song features Bobby Gillespie's vocals in the verse section with a gospel chorus, accompanied throughout by acoustic guitar, electric guitar and percussion. The song originally had a slower tempo and was described as a Ballad, the song only featured a piano and Gillespie's vocals. The song's first verse borrows from the lyrics to Can's "Yoo Doo Right": "I was blind, now I can see / You made a believer out of me". It was produced by Jimmy Miller and is frequently acknowledged as one of the standout songs on the album.
"Don't Fight It, Feel It", in the Italo house style, with vocals by Denise Johnson. The refrain "I'm gonna live the life I love, gonna love the life I live" is lifted from the Holland–Dozier–Holland song "(I'm a) Road Runner", which in turn echoes the title of a Willie Dixon composition most famously recorded by Muddy Waters. It is almost certainly intended as a reference to both songs.
"Higher Than the Sun" uses a sample from "Wah Wah Man" by the Young-Holt Unlimited Trio. It also has a recurring spoken word sample from "Get Away Jordan" by Take 6. Leader singer Gillespie claimed the single 'Higher Than the Sun' was the most important record since 'Anarchy in the UK'.
"Loaded", in E-flat major, features lines spoken by Peter Fonda's character in the 1966 movie The Wild Angels, as well as a drum loop from an Italian bootleg mix of Edie Brickell's "What I Am", and the Emotions' "I Don't Want to Lose Your Love". There are brass pedal notes between the sections with vocals. It is a remix of Primal Scream's own "I'm Losing More than I'll Ever Have", from their second album Primal Scream.
"Damaged", in contrast to the previous track, has a slower tempo and more reflective mood. Sparse percussion, acoustic guitar and piano accompany quiet vocals. "Damaged" is similar to "Movin' On Up" in the sense that it is produced by Jimmy Miller.
"Come Together" is the longest track on the album. On the UK version, the track opens with part of a speech given by Jesse Jackson at the Wattstax concert held in Los Angeles in 1972. About half-way through the track, a repeated female vocal line "Come... together as one" kicks in and repeats for the rest of the track.
Screamadelica has received widespread acclaim, frequently appearing in critics' lists and audience polls. Allmusic writer Stephen Thomas Erlewine called Screamadelica "an album that transcends its time and influence."Pitchfork Media praised the album on their 2003 list of the "Top 100 albums of the '90s," saying: "Screamadelica's atmospheric and imaginative hybrid of past, present and future captured its moment in vivid color and splendor, and it still radiates with a kaleidoscopic glow." In a 2009 review, the BBC hailed the album as "a solid gold classic."
In 1996, Select named it as the #1 album of the 1990s.
NME placed it at no. 3 in its "Best Albums of 1991" list.
In 2003, NME placed it at no. 23 in its "100 Best Albums Ever" list. In 2006, the magazine also placed it at no. 15 in its "Greatest British Albums Ever" list.
NME also named it the "Druggiest Album Ever" in 2011.
In 2000, Q placed the album at #18 on their list of the "100 Greatest British Albums." In 2001, Q placed it at #81 on a list of the "Top 100 Albums of All Time." The album ranked #2 in Q's "Best 50 Albums of Q's Lifetime" list.
The album reached #8 on the UK Albums Chart, and was later certified gold by the British Phonographic Industry, however the album has now sold 680,000 copies as of September 2011, meaning the album should be certified double platinum and is thus undercertified.
To commemorate the 20th anniversary of the release of the album, Primal Scream performed the entire album live at Olympia London in West London on 26 and 27 November 2010. The performance included a full gospel choir and horn section. The first of these gigs was broadcast live on BBC 6 Music, presented by Steve Lamacq. These gigs were followed by a UK tour in March 2011, where the band performed the album in full.
A^ The lyrics of "Slip Inside This House" were truncated and altered in places in comparison to the song's original recording by the 13th Floor Elevators. A notable example of such modification is in the chorus, where "Slip inside this house" was altered to "Trip inside this house".
B^ On the American pressings of the album, the Terry Farley mix of "Come Together" was featured in place of the original UK mix. The Farley mix runs 8:06.
^Reynolds, Simon Energy-Flash: A Journey Through Rave Music and Dance Culture, 2013, p. "Gillespie described 'Higher Than the Sun' as the most important record since 'Anarchy in the UK'. Certainly the lyric (about being your own god) recalled the solipsistic sovereignty of 'Anarchy in the UK' (albeit fuelled by Ecstasy rather than amphetamine), but what Gillespie really meant was that 'Higher' was a rock-historical 'cut-off record.."