“Another Splash of Colour (New Psychedelia in Britain 1980-85)’’ is arguably the first comprehensive overview of the British psychedelic revival of the early 1980’s. Cherry Red Records have put together a 3-CD set featuring 64 neo psychedelic tracks that span the first five years of the 1980’s. This compilation expands on the original ‘‘A Splash of Colour’’ LP, which was released in 1981 and this new edition comes housed in a clamshell box with a 34-page booklet containing exclusive pictures, and a mammoth 9,000-word essay written by former NME journalist Neil Taylor.
The artists who featured on the original album are included here, and The Mood Six, The Times, Miles Over Matter, Icicle Works, The High Tide, The Barracudas, The Earwigs and The Marble Staircase, were all heavily influenced by 1960’s British psychedelia. What is rather nice about this new expanded version is that it now includes some big hitters who are rubbing shoulders with some lesser-known artists, including The Soft Boys, The Television Personalities, The Dream Factory, The Legendary Pink Dots, Robyn Hitchcock, Julian Cope, Playn Jayn, The Attractions (minus Elvis Costello) and The Prisoners.
The expanded box set is a timely reminder that psychedelia was a broad church musically, and Cherry Red Records have used the original “A Splash of Colour’’ LP to form the basis of this new collection. The envelope has been pushed even further by the inclusion of post punk and new wave acts that were influenced by 1960’s pop and psychedelia but without being slavishly devoted to a 1960’s sartorial and musical aesthetic. It is clear that psychedelia was a much looser musical concept in this period, than the original ‘A Splash Of Colour’’ LP suggests, and this collection is a nicely rounded overview of bands and artists that were not quite carrying the psychedelic freak flag but obviously owed a small debt of gratitude to the pioneers of psychedelic rock music in the late 1960’s.
A special mention should be given to some of the artists that graced the original “A Splash Of Colour’’ LP as without them this box set would not have materialized. The High Tide, The Marble Staircase and The Mood Six have two songs apiece on this collection and these artists in particular were not afraid to doff their velvet fedoras to Syd Barrett Era Pink Floyd, Tomorrow and Traffic, and the result is pleasing but the studious approach to recreating the past leaves these artists sounding somewhat derivative. The Barracudas also appeared on the original album and were ironically an English band that was clearly indebted to the USA’s surf music scene of the 1960’s. “Watching The World Go By’’, and ‘’Inside Mind’’ feature on this collection, and clearly demonstrated their bias for 1960’s sunshine pop. However, these days The Barracudas might only be remembered for their top 40 novelty surf song called “Summer Fun’’ which was released in 1980.
Robyn Hitchcock features on Disc 1 with a solo effort “It’s a Mystic Trip’’, which came out as a flexi disc 7’ in 1981, but it is the scorching “Only The Stones Remain’’ with his group The Soft Boys that almost steals the show on the first CD of this box set. It is no secret that Hitchcock was a big admirer of his Cambridge compatriot Syd Barrett, and The Soft Boys did a remarkably brilliant version of Barrett’s “Vegetable Man’’, which can be found on the expanded edition of their second album “Underwater Moonlight’’. The two songs included here showcase Hitchcock’s surreal lyrics as well as his knack for making brilliant hook laden tunes, and as these two songs demonstrate Hitchcock and The Soft Boys are criminally underrated.
The Monochrome Set have one song included on this collection, and “On The Thirteenth Day’’ taken from their third album “Eligible Bachelor’s’’ demonstrates that they could combine a macabre sense of humour, hooky melodies and bristling edgy energy to make effortless pop songs and it is baffling that The Monochrome Set remain nothing more than a well kept secret. “On The Thirteenth Day’s’’ surreal and grotesque lyrics about corrugated horse flesh and venus fly traps hint at an acid trip going awry, and the Kafkaesque imagery is possibly the only explanation for the inclusion of this brilliantly quirky song’s inclusion on this collection.
It would be doubtful if no more than a handful of discerning souls have heard of Nick Nicely, and if that is the scenario then this artist thoroughly deserves to be rediscovered on the basis of the two tracks included here. “Hilly Fields’’ and “49 Cigars’’ take the experimental nature of psychedelia and electronic synth pop and combined these two elements together to almost breathtaking effect. “49 Cigars’’ in particular, is eerily psychedelic and sounds like it owes something of a debt to those late 1960’s psychedelic pioneers The Factory, and it is about time that both of these acts in their respective time period were given the recognition they richly deserve.
No collection like this would ever be complete without acknowledging the influential Medway garage scene that sprouted up from around the pubs and clubs of Rochester and Chatham in Kent in the first half of the 1980’s. The Dentists first single from 1985 the effortlessly catchy and jangly “Strawberries Are Growing In My Garden’’, has an obvious 1960’s dreamy West Coast pop influence with harmonies and tambourines galore, and this little known gem of a song is a welcome inclusion on this box set.
However, it is the roughly hewn music made by The Prisoners and The Milkshakes that have overshadowed other Medway acts like The Dentists and both of these bands are arguably the most celebrated and influential acts that came out of the Medway scene. The sheer effortless power of The Prisoners, which is demonstrated by the inclusion of ‘’Reaching My Head’’, that ably demonstrates what a popular live draw they must have been around the Medway and London in the 1980’s. Graham Day’s crunching, spiky guitar riffs, soulful vocals, and James Taylor’s masterful swirling organ, combined to create a somewhat rough garage sound that was also dripping in obvious pop melodies, which make it baffling why The Prisoners never broke out from their status as a critically acclaimed cult act to wider recognition.
There is not too much that can be said about legendary punk band The Damned, however, a little mention should go to their alto ego’s Naz Nomad and the Nightmares, who covered the Electric Prunes psychedelic classic “I Had Too Much Too Dream Last Night’’. Legend has it that it was originally thought that Naz Nomad and the Nightmares were a lost 1960s Garage band, and it is easy to see why fans of Nuggets era garage were salivating over the thought of uncovering some obscure 7’ records by a long lost 1960s act. Naz Nomad and the Nightmares covered a number of garage classics to such stunning effect that they were genuinely seen as the real thing, and one can only assume that The Damned adopted this pseudonym so they could completely immerse themselves in the garage and psychedelic records that they so clearly adored.
Julian Cope is another artist who really needs little introduction as the lynchpin and creative force of The Teardrop Explodes. However, Cope also released two overlooked solo albums straight after the demise of The Teardrop Explodes and included on this box set is “Sunspots’’, which is taken from Cope’s second album “Fried’’. “Sunspots’’ was released as a single in 1984 and it is easy to see why this particular song has ended up on this box set as the “Arch-Druid’’ is a unique pop star, who easily churned out great Psychedelically pop inflected tunes with consummate ease. Cope ploughed his own artistic furrow to such an extent as to pose naked under a turtle shell for the front cover of “Fried’’, and this eccentric pop star’s inclusion on this collection makes it an even greater well rounded listening experience.
Three bands from Creation Records feature on the third disc, and co founder of the label Alan McGee has never denied his utter devotion to 1960’s psychedelia. His fascination with 1960’s pop was such that he even named his fledgling label after cult British psych pop art band The Creation and named his own band Biff, Bang, Pow after one of their songs. The inclusion of Biff, Bang Pow, The Jasmine Minks and The Revolving Paint Dream demonstrate that a new musical beginning was just around the corner that was introspective, self-deprecating, amateurish and sonically ragged. This new musical movement it could be argued was a natural evolution from the music included on this box set, and it would eventually become christened as “Indie Pop’’ and this fleeting moment was crystallized on the NME’s C86 cassette tape.
“Another Splash Of Colour’’ is such a brilliantly diverse and varied collection of somewhat obscure neo-psychedelia that it could be a contender for one of the compilations of the year. The collection ably demonstrates that their was an alternative listening experience in the early 1980’s that was to some extent lysergic, and was the absolute antithesis to the ubiquitous and slickly produced synthesizer pop that was polluting the FM airwaves with alarming regularity in this period. If you are a discerning soul whose preference is for obscure psychedelic tinged music that has slipped under the radar then there is simply no excuse for not buying this box set. BUY HERE!