Neo-psychedelia is a diverse genre of psychedelic music that originated in the 1970s as an outgrowth of the British post-punk scene, also called acid punk. Its practitioners drew from the unusual sounds of 1960s psychedelia, either updating or copying the approaches from that era. After post-punk, neo-psychedelia flourished into a more widespread and international movement of artists who applied the spirit of psychedelic rock to new sounds and techniques. Neo-psychedelia may also include forays into psychedelic pop, jangly guitar rock, heavily distorted free-form jams, or recording experiments. A wave of British alternative rock in the early 1990s spawned the subgenres dream pop and shoegazing.
|Cultural origins||Late 1970s, United States and United Kingdom|
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Neo-psychedelic acts borrowed a variety of elements from 1960s psychedelic music. Some emulated the psychedelic pop of bands like the Beatles and early Pink Floyd, others adopted Byrds-influenced guitar rock, or distorted free-form jams and sonic experimentalism of the 1960s. Some neo-psychedelia has been explicitly focused on drug use and experiences, and like acid house of the same age, projects transitory, ephemeral, and trance-like experiences. Other bands have used neo-psychedelia to accompany surreal or political lyrics.
In the view of author Erik Morse: "The distinctions between British and American neo-psychedelia were best described as the differences between primitivism and primalism. The sounds of American neo-psychedelia emphasized the cryptic margins of avant-rock, incorporating evanescent textures over an immutable bassline, producing a 'heavy' metallic ambience, contra-distinct to the sing-song filigree of British psychedelia".
Psychedelic rock declined towards the beginning of the 1970s, as bands broke up or moved into new forms of music, including heavy metal music and progressive rock. Like the psychedelic developments of the late 1960s, punk rock and new wave in the 1970s challenged the rock music establishment. At the time, "new wave" was a term used interchangeably with the nascent punk rock explosion. In 1978, journalist Greg Shaw categorized a subset of new wave music as "neo-psychedelia", citing Devo, "to an extent ... [its] first major indication ... [they are] the new darling of the new wave press and opinion-makers, yet nothing about it is remotely 'punk'". Shaw wrote that in England, neo-psychedelia was known as "acid punk", noting "self-advertised 'psychedelic punk' band, the Soft Boys, [are] being hotly pursued by several major labels."
By 1978–79, new wave was considered independent from punk and post-punk (the latter was initially known as "new musick"). Author Clinton Heylin marks the second half of year 1977 and the first half of year 1978 as the "true starting-point for English post-punk". Some of the scene's bands, including the Soft Boys, the Teardrop Explodes, and Echo & the Bunnymen, became major figures of neo-psychedelia. In the early 1980s, Siouxsie and the Banshees crafted a "exotic neo-psychedelic pop" with the arrival of guitarist John McGeoch.
In the 1980s and 1990s there were occasional mainstream acts that dabbled in neo-psychedelia, including Prince's mid-1980s work and some of Lenny Kravitz's 1990s output, but neo-psychedelia has mainly been the domain of alternative and indie rock bands. The early 1980s Paisley Underground movement followed neo-psychedelia. Originating in Los Angeles, the movement saw a number of young bands who were influenced by the psychedelia of the late 1960s and all took different elements of it. The term "Paisley Underground" was later expanded to include others from outside the city.
Madchester was a music and cultural scene that developed in the Manchester area of North West England in the late 1980s, in which artists merged alternative rock with acid house and dance culture as well as other sources, including psychedelia and 1960s pop. The label was popularised by the British music press in the early 1990s, and its most famous groups include the Stone Roses, Happy Mondays, Inspiral Carpets, the Charlatans and 808 State. The rave-influenced scene is widely seen as heavily influenced by drugs, especially ecstasy (MDMA). At that time, the Haçienda nightclub, co-owned by members of New Order, was a major catalyst for the distinctive musical ethos in the city that was called the Second Summer of Love. Screamadelica is the third studio album by Scottish rock band Primal Scream released on 1991. The album marked a significant departure from the band's early indie rock sound, drawing inspiration from the blossoming house music scene and associated drugs such as LSD and MDMA. It won the first Mercury Music Prize in 1992, and has sold over three million copies worldwide. Baggy was a British dance-oriented rock music genre popular in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The scene was heavily influenced by Madchester, although it was not geographically confined to the city of Manchester. Many Madchester bands could also be described as baggy, and vice versa. Baggy was characterised by psychedelia and acid house-influenced guitar music, often with a "funky drummer" beat. The scene was named after the loose-fitting clothing worn by the bands and fans.
The late 1980s would see the birth of shoegazing, which, among other influences, took inspiration from 1960s psychedelia. Reynolds referred to this movement as "a rash of blurry, neo-psychedelic bands" in a 1992 article in The Observer. With loud walls of sound, where individual instruments and even vocals were often indistinguishable, they followed the neo-psychedelic lead of bands like My Bloody Valentine (often considered as the earliest shoegaze act). Major shoegaze acts included Ride, Lush, Chapterhouse, and The Boo Radleys, who enjoyed considerable attention in the UK but largely failed to break through in the US.
The jam band movement, which began in the late 1980s, was influenced by the Grateful Dead's improvisational and psychedelic musical style. The Vermont band Phish developed a sizable and devoted fan following during the 1990s, and were described as "heirs" to the Grateful Dead after the death of Jerry Garcia in 1995.
AllMusic states: "Aside from the early-'80s Paisley Underground movement and the Elephant 6 collective of the late 1990s, most subsequent neo-psychedelia came from isolated eccentrics and revivalists, not cohesive scenes." They go on to cite what they consider some of the more prominent artists: the Church, Nick Saloman's Bevis Frond, Spacemen 3, Robyn Hitchcock, Mercury Rev, the Flaming Lips, and Super Furry Animals. According to Treblezine's Jeff Telrich: "Primal Scream made [neo-psychedelia] dancefloor ready. The Flaming Lips and Spiritualized took it to orchestral realms. And Animal Collective—well, they kinda did their own thing."
Emerging in the 1990s, stoner rock combined elements of psychedelic rock and doom metal. Typically using a slow-to-mid tempo and featuring low-tuned guitars in a bass-heavy sound, with melodic vocals, and 'retro' production, it was pioneered by the Californian bands Kyuss and Sleep. Modern festivals focusing on psychedelic music include Austin Psych Fest in Texas, founded in 2008 and Liverpool Psych Fest.
List of artists
- One American band who labelled themselves "acid punk" was Chrome. The band's Helios Creed remembers that music journalists at the time considered about ten bands – including Chrome, Devo, and Pere Ubu – to be the "top ten" of acid punk: "They didn't want to call it psychedelia, it was New Wave psychedelia".
- Contemporary writers like Jon Savage saw the experimental and radical musical deconstructions of groups like Devo, Throbbing Gristle, Siouxsie and the Banshees, the Slits, and Wire as "post-punk" maneuvers.
- He says that the arrival of guitarist John McKay in Siouxsie and the Banshees in 1977, Magazine's album Real Life (1978), and Wire's new musical direction as factors in this starting point. Journalist David Stubbs wrote that Siouxsie and the Banshees' music in 1982 had got "neo-psychedelic flourishes" with "pan-like flutes" and "treated loops".
- Reynolds surmised that Echo & the Bunnymen's "tuneful" music could be likened to "two other leading postpunk groups to come from Liverpool during this period: Wah! Heat, with their ringing chords and endless crescendos, and the neopsychedelic outfit Teardrop Explodes, whose singer, Julian Cope, described the band's songs as 'cries of joy.'" He also notes that Echo & the Bunnymen were heralded as the harbingers of "new psychedelia", he writes, "despite the fact that in those days they never ingested anything more deranging than pints of ale". The band's manager, Bill Drummond, said: "All that postpunk vanguard stuff, we'd just think that was completely stupid."
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1982's A Kiss in the Dreamhouse, a textured venture into orchestrated neo-psychedelia.
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