Of all the groups ill-served by their choice of name, the Magic Mushroom Band must be pretty near the top of the list. Birthed in the early 80s, and coming out of both the contemporary psychedelic revival and free festival scenes, it’s one of those things that must have seemed like a good idea at the time. And it no doubt served them well in the beginning as a rallying point for the freaks and heads that made up their core following. But as this anthology (which assembles rare early recordings and stand-out album tracks) amply demonstrates, MMB had the potential to reach a much wider audience.
Those early recordings might sound (as you’d expect) like a mash-up between Hawkwind, Gong and Pink Fairies, but even here, there’s a verve and excitement that transcends their influences. The skeletal cosmic garage of Magick Eye is trippy and insistent, but unlike a lot of modern psych, it doesn’t bludgeon with sonic brute force. Similarly, the paranoid anarcho-funk of Brain Machine is lithe and nimble. What quickly becomes apparent is that group leader Garry ‘Moonboot’ Masters had a talent for writing catchy, well-arranged songs, and that the Magic Mushroomers were far from just a jam band.
The upbeat psych-pop of Who Can Say? and Burning Like The Sun channels the vibe of the legendary Soho club night Alice In Wonderland, while Freedom and Queen Of Dreams shows they were just as adept at producing sophisticated adult rock. Yet the most eye-opening track here, and one which highlights the dance-oriented direction they’d take in spin-off group Astralasia, is Squatter In The House – with its trance-techno rhythm, ecstatic moans and whispered female vocal, it’s a genuinely erotic song.
Pictures In My Mind is a consistently enjoyable box of delights from a fascinating but often overlooked period of British alternative music.