Well I think I can safely declare Spain and The Chemistry Set as winners of the inagural Eurovision Psych Contest. They finished well clear of Beaulieu Porch – flying the Union Jack – in second and The Sudden Death of Stars from France who finished third just ahead of Switzerland’s Balduin.
Thanks to everyone who voted. All the bands are great – unlike the real thing…
As you are very probably aware Eurovision hits our screens yet again this weekend and after of hours of listening to fluffy, camp pop drivel the continent’s nations then try outdo each other in some fantastic politically motivated polling.
In my book Sweden should pretty much always win. Not only because they have the best tunes, but every one loves those Swedes don’t they?
Anyway much more fun is this year’s inaugural Eurovision Psych Contest where space rockers, shoegazers and lysergic pop gymnasts from across the continent battle each other for this year’s award.
So without further ado here are the entrants for this year. I realty don’t give a fig if you vote for your own country, or even the one next to you. It is all down to you.
**Update** This is just a bit of fun and all the bands featured are excellent, so support them all. I will announce a winner on Saturday at about 10PM GMT. So you can vote until then.
Belgium - Bed Rugs – This is their new single Yawn from the excellent newly released album Rapids.
France – The Sudden Death Of Stars - Supernovae . Heavy on the sitar and smelly cheese from the Rennes based psychsters whose debut album soon on Ample Play is a wonderful stew of all things 60s.
Germany – Rockandys - Jungle In The Sky – Scary sounding gothic Psych from the Anton Newcombe approved band. I know they don’t all come from Germany, but do you really think this woman came from Luxembourg?
The Netherlands – Jacco Gardner – Chameleon – The Dutch Boy Wonder with one of many gems from his Cabinet Of Curiosities album
Spain – The Chemistry Set - Come Kiss Me Vibrate And Smile – Fine new-ish single from the Barcelona-based Anglo-Catalan band
Sweden – The Greek Theatre – Lost Out At Sea -Overprotection Doesn’t Work From the ace new album Lost Out At Sea
Switzerland – Balduin - My Love Soon – Gorgeous Symphonic pop from the Swiss fella.
UK – Beaulieu Porch – Anno Domini. The stand out track from Salisbury’s very own Mark Wirtz.
It has been a really great week for albums with a pair of excellent new releases.
Band of the week has to be Ulysses who return with their second album Kill You Again, and just like that debut it is an absolute corker. Think noisy glam rock meets Who-like psych with a few outrageous musical steals along with way. Best of all though it has some amazing tunes. If you like Art Brut, David Devant or even The Len Price 3 there is plenty to love here.
The Primitives are back too, well with a kind of new old album. Everything’s Shining Bright rounds up all their indie recordings for the label Lazy at the end of the 80s. It has some real gems too. Their run of singles from that era includes the Morrissey fave Stop Killing Me (think Ramones meets Monkees) through to the bubblegum psych of Through The Flowers. Also included is a live recording and some demos from the album that eventually morphed into Lovely. This wonderful tune is on there too. There’s a double album reissue of Lovely on the cards soon too.
Cornershop’s Ample Play label has two really exciting new releases coming in the early summer. Bedrugs are a Belgian band with a guitar heavy psych sound not too dissimilar from the excellent Brits Temples but with a whiff of bands like Toy and The Horrors, while The Sudden Death Of Stars hail from France and are influenced by The Byrds, Brian Jonestown Massacre and The Church. There is some superb sitar playing on their album too, especially on the Supernovae single featured below. More info here. Both albums are excellent.
London’s Shadow Kabinet have finally announced a release date for their long awaited Nostalgia For The Future album. Whereas their last album Smiling Worlds Apart was a Sgt Pepper-ish minestrone of psych, the newie sounds like the band have shifted forward a decade or so and are mining mid 70s sounds. The title track (on the vid below) is superb.
Another band who have been away way too long is The Magic Theatre. Basically a project of some ex-members of the hugely under rated Brit-Popper Ooberman, the band released a wonderfully ambitious, heavily orchestrated sixties influenced pop album a few years back called London Town. The new one, The Long Way Home, has a track listing and is apparently in the can. The band’s Dan Popplewell described it as
‘Comparing it sonically to the previous album it sounds much better – more rich, alive and real. Compared to The Beatles it’s a tiny bit louder and brighter. Compared to Abba it’s fat and loud. Compared to The Beach Boys it’s very clear and pristine. Compared to Katy Perry it’s more natural and rich. Oops giving away my bad taste there.’
The line up of the Liverpool’s Psych Fest in September is coming together now and there are some real treats including a very rare (is it their first?) UK visit from the hugely rated psychsters Mmoss. The band’s album Only Children has been one of my most played in a long while. Also coming over are Nashville’s superb Paperhead, Dutch psych wunder kid Jacco Gardner and our the brilliant Byrdsie Brit psychers Alfa 9.
Finally this week sees Le Beat Bespoke in London which marks the first performance in well over a decade for one of the very best English psych pop bands ever The Aardvarks.
The band’s complete recorded history is now rounded up here – and very good it is too. Hope they play this one.
It might only be March, but already it has been a vintage year for lovers of wonky sixties influenced pop aka psych.
Last year’s great hope, Jacco Gardner, has already treated us to a very fine album that delivers on the promise of his exceptional early singles. While Robyn Hitchcock, the spiritual godfather of British psych has turned out an album that rivals the best music he has ever made.
And then there’s an American band Foxygen, who might just be the best 60s influenced band that country has produced since The Strokes and The White Stripes.
Here then are 10, ok 8, great albums from this year plus a couple from the tail end of last year. Spotify new Psych playlist – which features many of the bands – below the pics.
And so to the album that already is a shoe in for album of the year - and it only March remember.
Put simply Foxygen are, IMO, the best American band, since oooh The Strokes. Their debut EP, Take the Kids Off Broadway, was fun but their new album which came out a few weeks ago, We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic, I do not think will be bettered this year. It really is that exceptional.
Admittedly ace producer Richard Swift has shorn the band of some of their quirkiness, but by making them focus on the songs themselves, and the superbly clever arrangements, he has done them a huge favour.
That isn’t to say you haven’t heard some of the music before. But this is no Oasis style slavish homage to long gone musical era. For me the band’s spiritual forbears are the incredible US psych band The United States of America, a band whose only album drew heavily on all manner of American music – from classical through to gospel and folk – to create what was for the time an astonishingly ambitious record.
And so it is with Foxygen. There’s a whiff of Elvis here, a Dylan touch there. I can also make out snatches of cult acts like The Music Machine (in On Blue Mountain) and The Zombies too. But even if moments of the songs sound familiar the tracks themselves are utterly unique and never ever short of incendiary.
Best tracks? Well all of them. But you have to love the opener In The Darkness for its Magical Mystery Tour era Beatles sunny optimism and Shuggie for its really clever structure and killer chorus. And then there’s No Destruction already infamous for its line – ‘You don’t have be an asshole you are not in Brooklyn any more,’ pay off line. In San Francisco (see above) they have a gorgeous tune that sounds like Syd Barrett fronting Belle & Sebastian.
Also in an era of faceless musicians, frontman Sam France has the swagger, the self-belief and the hair to rival Jacco Gardner as the poster boy for a new generation of psych acts
Just pray that the don’t do a Strokes and piss any momentum they had away by hanging out with models and starring in lame fashion shoots.
The single perfectly captured late 60s British Baroque Pop in a way that no one has done for decades. Yet it still managed to sound contemporary and, dare I say, digital.
Gardner is now very much at the forefront of the new psych revival which has been bubbling under for ages, went over ground last year with Tame Impala and will go stratospheric this year once BBC 6 Music gets its head around the astonishing Foxygen.
So let’s just say that the expectations for this, Gardner’s debut album, are very high. Fortunately for psych fans everywhere the fella has delivered an album that builds on the promise of that superb single without, to be honest, ever quite eclipsing it.
I should say straight up that this album is not for everyone. There will be a people for whom the oompah beat, fairytale lyrics and Mellotron of the album’s closer The Ballad of Little Jane will send them screaming back to their Stooges albums. But if you like melodic, tuneful, experimental (there are plenty of odd song structures going on here) pop that owes a huge debt to the late 60s start here.
In many ways Gardner has picked up on some less, how shall we say this, fashionable psych influences. Sure you can hear Syd Barrett in Clear The Air and UK band Kaleidoscope could quite easily have recorded Where Will You Go in their Fairfield Parlour guise. But I am also hearing the first Genesis album (check it out it has some great tunes) on several of the tracks and the Mellotron that washes over Help Me out reminds me of The Moody Blues. Gardner is also clearly a huge fan of the always brilliant Fading Yellow series of compilations masterminded by Swedish psych fanatic JJ.
Highlights. Well apart from the singles Clear The Air and Where Will You Go (love that nibbling bass sound) the spacey drone of Puppets Dangling and gentle folky waltz of Lullabye do it for me. There isn’t really a weak moment. Occasionally though the precise nature of most of the tracks (Gardner is obviously a perfectionist) and the very mannered English sounding (for a Dutch fella anyhow) vocals can have you screaming for some explosive drums, powerful grooves and fuzzy guitar to mess things up a little. Maybe next time.
For now though give Cabinet a few listens on Spotify. By the time you have played it three or four times you will be addicted to it. Then get the vinyl!
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