The largely London-based New Psychedelic movement of the early 1980s was overshadowed by the more notorious New Romantic scene which was occurring at the same time.
Whereas the latter was synth-based, futurist and studiously elitist, the new psychedelic bunch were retro stylists, seeking out the second-hand Paisley of 60s psychedelic Britrock and its old London haunts. It also prided itself on its inclusiveness and wide-eyed, idealistic spirit which stood in contrast to the postmodern cynicism of post-punk.
In a short essay in the liner notes, Helen Donlon recalls the micro-scene that flourished in Soho in the early 80s, its crowd consisting largely of disaffected mods and psych rockers prowling around clubs like the Groovy Cellar and Gossips listening to the likes of 13th Floor Elevators and Traffic and united in their search for a return to the heady, colourised, Carnaby Street days when briefly, British rock was a technicolour beacon to the world.
Spread across three CDs, this collection represents a generous helping of the music that sprang up in that era. Subsequent generations have had their neo-psychedelias; the shoegazing scene of the 1990s, which was hazier and more expansive than the music on offer here, which in its smallness and prosaic clarity feels quite close to the indie aesthetic of its day.
Some of it’s inescapably retro, such as The Times’ I Helped Patrick McGoohan Escape and Firmanent & The Elements’ The Festival Of Frothy Muggament. However, there are plenty of better-known names, sympaticos such as The Monochrome Set and TV Personalities, as well as an early demo from Doctor And The Medics, Barbara Can’t Dance, whose number one single Spirit In The Sky was the commercial highpoint of this movement.
There are also, amid some of the more ephemeral and passing-through acts, a handful here who are psychedelic to the core. Julian Cope’s Sunspots, lumbering like a Wicker Man on the loose, is the work of one of England’s true and redoubtable freak flag wavers.
Robyn Hitchcock’s mordantly surreal It’s A Mystic Trip (‘Judith come and get your apples/Don’t expect not to be scratched’) speaks of a man who long ago drowned in the authenticity of his own acid bath while the excellent The Legendary Pink Dots, featuring Edward Ka-Spel, produce a fragile, coloured egg in the Syd Barrett spirit with Waving At The Aeroplanes.