RELEASE DATE: 29/04/16
RECORD COMPANY: Cherry Red Records.
When writing these reviews, I often wonder how to preface what will amount to a fangirl slobberfest. These archival releases are like discovering a treasure chest of golden nuggets, uncovering both lost favorites and discoveries of artists I missed the first time around. This era of music informed my early musical tastes, something which has held steadfast to this very day. I loved psychedelia long before it became fashionable again, and I can trace that love straight back to Sgt. Pepper’s. My brother did not appreciate the scratches that accumulated on his vinyl from the many times I played it in his absence, but I always found it gave the record a comfortable sonic patina. OK, anyway, enough introspection.
Another Splash of Colour is the first compilation that covers the psychedelic revival which was prevalent in the British music scene in the first half of the 80s. This three disk set expands on the original VA vinyl called A Splash of Colour issued by WEA in 1982 and including many of the neo-psych scene’s big names: Mood Six, Miles Over Matter, and The Barracudas. All of the tracks from that original album now appear on CD for the first time. This expanded collection also covers the roots of the psych revival in post-punk and the mod revival through to the much publicized London scene surrounding club nights like The Groovy Cellar and onto a second revival with early releases on Creation Records. The box set includes a substantive booklet with sleeve notes by ex-NME scribe Neil Taylor. It boasts many rarities new to CD as well as previously unreleased tracks.
I have drawn heavily from this collection to supplement my radio show, and the vintage tunes sound modern and not lifted from any particular era. So where to start? The High Tide’s “Dancing In My Mind” has the honor of leading off the set. I don’t know how decisions are made as to sequencing, but it doesn’t matter. You can dip into any part of this release and be guaranteed to hear uniformly excellent results. Anyway, the lead off track is fine indeed, with high female harmonies and the requisite groovy organ and guitar bubbling along nicely. They also contribute a second song, the trippy “Electric Blue” on the second disk. You gotta love the cool organ vibe. “Just Like a Dream” along with “Plastic Flowers (Psycho Version)” are contributed by Mood Six. This West End group flamed out quickly after a meteoric rise and signing to EMI, and too bad. Their baroque, ornate psych is well mannered and lovely. “Something Happening Here” from the great Miles Over Matter is a firm favorite, as it evokes Teardrop Explodes and The Jam! The keyboards almost sound like Julian Cope is at the helm along with Paul Weller. Just plain cool! Robyn Hitchcock is well represented here, with the uber cool Mystic Trip and a snarling classic from his old band The Soft Boys (“Only The Stones Remain”). His old Soft Boys bandmate Kimberly Rew also chimes in with the catchy tune, “Stomping All Over the World”. This latter tune makes you realize that a large part of the Soft Boys sound came from Rew’s guitar playing. Another favorite band of mine is The Barracudas (who can forget “I Can’t Pretend” and the campy Beach Boys influenced “His Last Summer”?), and here the give us the stand up tune, “Watching the World Go By”. Byrds influence? Check. Tremendous hooks? You bet. Good times all around. Their Byrdsian song “Inside Mind” is also a cut above the usual psych. I also really dig the song “49 Cigars” by Nick Nicely. This song borrows heavily from the Beatles psych playbook, but this is first rate anyway. And “I Helped Patrick McGoohan Escape” from the mod-inflected The Times is pure fun. And if it reminds you of The TV Personalities, that’s because Ed Ball is the man behind the curtain in both bands. “Slow Patience” from The Attractions owes a debt or three to the whimsical Pink Floyd era, but it’s all very charming and cute. “Keep Your Voice Down” from The Earwigs sounds like a lost 60s classic, complete with dramatic vocals and soaring harmonies. “The Long Weekend” from Marble Staircase sounds like it has Julian Cope on vocals (cannot confirm this, alas), so it might as well be one of his solo songs or even one of the poppier efforts from Teardrop Explodes. The collection later visits Cope’s cool Fried song, “Sunspots”. “Work” from Blue Orchids has cool retro organ and sounds utterly modern. “Gigolo Aunt” from Knox is a Pink Floyd cover that sounds like Sweet mashed up with The Pretty Things. “Further Thoughts” from The Chicaynes is more in a power pop vein (think Plimsouls and Nerves), and has that peculiar energy that transfixes you and sends you straight back to the 80s. Monochrome Set (a firm favorite) offers listeners the whimsical, flowery “On The Thirteenth Day”, and it’s slightly twee and cool. Firmament and The Elements are a band out of time. The slightly ominous tones of “The Festival of Frothy Muggamen” are offset by cheerful vocals, and the backdrop is a precursor to the synth pop that became so prevalent in the 80s. “No Reflexes” by The Von Trap Family ends out the first disk, and it’s prime power pop, filled with the requisite elements that make this genre so rewarding.
Nick Nicely has a second song on this set, “Hilly Fields”. It’s like Nick is channeling Roy Wood and Paul McCartney. I wish I had known this guy’s work sooner, he is really neat. Squire’s “No Time Tomorrow” is paisley-tinged pop at its finest, while the slightly chilly “Still Dreaming” brings us back to The Marble Staircase. It’s great to have these rather rare songs available once again. The gothic psych of Paul Roland’s “Dr. Strange” is far distant from flowery Carnaby Street, but it offers a nice balance to the sometimes overly ornate chamber pop offered by other artists. “The Brothel in Rosenstrasse” is from the strange but true collaboration of author Michael Moorcock with a few musicians. It’s on the darker side of this genre, and someone like Dave Vanian of The Damned would be right at home with this band. The uber prolific Martin Newell’s band Cleaners from Venus bring the lovely, jangling “Wivenhoe Bells 2”. It has children’s voices and other sound effects mixed in with the cheerful sentiments and chiming keyboards. “Dam-Nations” from Scarlet Party is finely textured power pop, and I am not sure it belongs on here, but it’s a nice tune. Another curious and unsettling entry is “Waving At the Aeroplanes” from creepy band The Legendary Pink Dots. They’re from the Paul Roland school of weirdness, so in a sense, they are right at home on the second disk. “Fiction and Literature” from the jangly cool Modern Art is a bit reminiscent of Medway band The Dentists, whose classic “Strawberries Are Growing In My Garden (And It’s Wintertime)” is nestled in the middle of the third disk. In the latter band, they have a killer vocalist in the dreamy Mick Murphy with the great Bob Collins on guitar. The jangly hooks suck you straight in with Byrdsian aplomb. “Forever” by “The Jetset” has a familiar and well-loved melody, borrowing freely from The Beatles and Byrds but managing to rise above the usual psych cliches. Well done! Mod revival band Purple Hearts had a great single in “Hazy Darkness”, which manages to bypass the mod label and offer up something fresh. “Raspberry Rainbow” is adorable and manages childlike innocence a la Syd Barrett, as does Dan Treacy’s TV Personalities live track, “The Dream Inspires (Live)”.
Dear reader, if you are still following along, I applaud you. This is a long review covering 64 songs and we have finally arrived at the third disk. I have already described some of the tunes on Disk 3, so I will attempt to keep this concise. I’ve encountered the pretty “Flowers in the Sky” from Revolving Paint Dream before, and you should hear it. It’s a classic of the genre with hazy guitars and twining harmonies. Naz Nomad and The Nightmares (aka The Damned) inject some garage rock energy with their cover of “I Had Too Much to Dream Last Night”. The song is a perfect vehicle for Dave Vanian’s faintly menacing vocals. “Mr. Magic” from The Jasmine Minks is well-executed jangle pop, reminding me once again of the well-loved Dentists, and I suspect that it’s more the musical times and similar influences than anything else. Alan McGee’s band Biff Bang Pow! trot out the hallucinogenic “A Day Out With Jeremy Chester”, which is akin to the best mind trip. Julian Cope’s brother Joss and his band Freight Train are represented here with the gorgeous Rain Parade influenced “Man’s Laughter”. I owned this single once long ago and still cherish hearing it. “Direct Hits” from Doctor Ben reminds me of The Windbreakers, who would fit in perfectly here. “Two By Two” is a four to the floor stomper from The Green Telescope (think Thirteenth Floor Elevators), followed by the frenetic garage blast of “Wide Eyed and Electrick” (Magic Mushroom Band). The always imaginative and talented Captain Sensible closes out the set with the strangely titled “The 4 Marys Go Go Dance All Night At the Groovy Cellar”. It sounds like Pat Fish (Jazz Butcher) is singing here, complete with cooing background vocals.
To summarize, this box set really runs the gamut of psych influenced and inspired music, and will please anyone interested in this always evolving genre.
The full compilation gets its official release on the 29th April 2016 via Cherry Red Records and is available to pre-order right now from: cherryred.co.uk/product/another-splash-of-colour-new-psychedelia-in-britain-1980-1985/
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Music has always been a driving force for Elizabeth Klisiewicz, which she days “continues to define my existence”. During and after her college years, she ran a weekly radio show at WMUA FM Radio and also at a community station in Springfield, MA, in addition to writing music and concert reviews for the college newspaper. At present, she writes for The Big Takeover Magazine and The Active Listener Blog, and recently began producing a semi-regular Mixcloud-based show called The Kitchen Sink. In the real world, when not writing technical manuals, she gets her thrills from reading mysteries, birdwatching, and can always be found with a camera and a maxed-out storage card full of music.