In case you hadn’t noticed there is a bit of a psychedelic revival going on at the moment. and it isn’t just garage bands cranking up the feedback or janglemeisters going a little woozy. This is proper psychedelia in all its technicolour glory.
As the pop historians among you know, the first psych era started in 1966 with tracks like The Byrds’ Eight Miles High and The Fabs’ Tomorrow Never Knows which took basic beat pop and freaked it out by all manner of weird effects and musical influences. By 1970 psych was all but over as the wigged out pop got replaced by light and fluffy bubblegum pop for the kids and pretentious prog nonsense for their older siblings. Of course there were still bands like this lot that fell between the cracks, but psychedelia became about as fashionable as music hall.
Punk’s year zero approach meant that psych, like every other 60s and 70s musical form, was the uncool preserve of a previous generation – which given that The Sex Pistols loved Psych bands like The Creation and The Small Faces – was a little uncharitable.
The first psych revival really took place in the UK in the early 80s throwing up this mob – who even scored a genius novelty single – and the decade’s best kept secret Miles Over Matter, who recorded some amazing swirly pop songs but never managed to release a single or an album.
A few years later musicians from big alternative acts like The Smiths. The Bangles and REM began to plunder the late 60s for musical ideas, while at the same time a hardcore garage psych scene that strove to be authentic to the original 60s sound began to emerge. Then you had The Stone Roses who’d clearly read ever word in the psych textbook and whose debut album might just be the first psych record to really rival the music from the first psych era.
The new psych bands
And so to today. Bands like The Sufis and Paperhead from Nashville, Alfa 9 and Beaulieu Porch from England and individuals like Holland’s Jacco Gardner have set the controls for the heart of the sun delivering prime Barrett-esque psych. And then there’s the elder statesmen. Have you heard the new Brian Jonestown Massacre album – it doesn’t get a lot more psych than that?
Then there’s the band that are the torchbearers of the new era – Australia’s Tame Impala. Trippy as anything, but very BBC 6 Music friendly, the band have released a pair of brilliant albums and even sold out Brixton’s Academy this week.
Quite why this is happening is a mystery. Maybe it is just bands have become bored of recycling all those early 80s bands, and the Brooklyn mob, who have appropriated C86 sounds – arguably the most British music trend since Skiffle – have found it just a little too one dimensional.
Another point is that the sound and the equipment of the 60s can now be replicated with Garageband, so all those weird phasing motifs and kitchen sink style production is available to anyone who can work their way round a Mac.
Then there’s the influence of Shindig magazine, whose ever increasing circulation means that a whole generation of pop fans are discovering classic, and often ultra obscure, 60s bands as well as getting to read about the new bands.
Anyhow, enough of the theory. Here’s a quick trawl through some incredible new music.
The Sufis – come from Nashville and have just released one hell of a Pink Floyd-esque album. It is utterly addictive. The single Where Did She Go, is prime trippy 60s Brit psych with a hint of the Three O’ Clock. Marvellous, and it is on Spotify too. Paperhead share the same manor and many of the same influences as The Sufis and their debut was one of the highlights of last year.
Jacco Gardner – Jacco is a Dutch bloke who is obsessed with making beautiful multi-layered psych using unusual instruments. His first single – Clear The Air – was stunning. This current one Where Will You Go, is almost as good.
Alfa 9 – Signed to Blow Up Records this Stoke-based band have just issued their second album, Gone To Ground, which boasts some gorgeous floaty psych as well as jangly stuff like this. It is on Spotify too.
Beaulieu Porch – Multi-instrumentalist Simon Berry has just delivered two truly great albums in less than six months. It is like Nick Nicely’s Hilly Fields or even Tears For Fears’ Sowing The Seeds turned up the max. Also on Spotify.
The See See – It would be very rude not to mention this London band who have just issued a superb Byrdsie album which contains this corking single.
Melody’s Echo Chamber – Who, IMO have produced the album of the year so far. If you like breathy 60s pop as practised by Ivy and The Postmarks, but with a load of weird effects and time changes this is for you. Working in similar territory are The Hall of Mirrors and The Still Corners, two wonderful English bands.
We shouldn’t forget the Welsh psych bands, the best of which, Colorama, recently issued this cracking album.
Finally, honorable mentions go to The Sunchymes (think Beach Boys meets Syd Barrett), The Soundcarriers (whose two superb album mix easy listening, kraut rock and 90s indie), Toy (BBC 6 Music faves) and The Chemistry Set (who are keeping the early 90s psych flame alive).
And here’s quite a few of those bands in one Spotify playlist