Neo-psychedelia

animal collective by nathan anderson

Neo-psychedelia is music that emulates or is heavily influenced by the psychedelic music of the 1960s. It began to be revived among British post-punk bands of the later 1970s and early 1980s and was taken up by groups including bands of the Paisley Underground and Madchester scenes, as well as occasional interest from mainstream artists and bands into the new millennium.

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 the jangly guitars of folk rock bands like the Byrds-influenced guitar rock, or distorted free-form jams and sonic experimentalism of late 1960s acid rock. Some neo-psychedelia has been explicitly focused on drug use and experiences, while other bands have used it to accompany surreal or political lyrics.

As a distinct genre, psychedelic rock declined towards the end of the 1960. Bands broke up or moved into new forms of music, including heavy metal and progressive rock. 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 it has mainly been an influence on alternative and indie-rock bands. It began to be revived in the wake of the punk rock movement in the late 1970s and early 1980s by British bands of the post-punk scene, including the Teardrop Explodes, Echo and the Bunnymen, Soft Boys, The Cure, and The Glove. Siouxsie and the Banshees also plunged into ‘full-on modern psychedelia’ on their 1982 album ‘A Kiss in the Dreamhouse,’ In Germany, The Legendary Pink Dots mixed pop and exotic psychedelia with classic influences. In the US in the early 1980s these bands were joined by the Paisley Underground movement, based in Los Angeles, with acts like Dream Syndicate, The Bangles, and Rain Parade. On the East Coast of the US it was adopted by New Wave bands in the 1980s, including Lyres from Boston, and Plan 9, The Fuzztones, The Chesterfield Kings, and The Vipers from New York. New Wave band XTC published records under the pseudonym, The Dukes of Stratosphear from 1985.

Influenced by house music, Northern Soul and funk, a less nostalgic brand of neo-psychedelia, dubbed ‘scallydelia,’ developed in the late 1980s among alternative rock bands of the Madchester scene, including The Stone Roses, Inspiral Carpets, and The Farm. Other alternative rock acts that delved into psychedelic territory included Nick Saloman’s Bevis Frond, the space rock of Spacemen 3, and diverse acts like Mercury Rev, and The Flaming Lips. The late 80s would see the birth of ‘shoegazing,’ which, among other influences, took inspiration from 1960s psychedelia. With loud walls of sound, where individual instruments and even vocals were often indistinguishable, they followed the lead of noise pop and dream pop bands like My Bloody Valentine (often considered as the earliest shoegaze act), The Jesus and Mary Chain, and the Cocteau Twins. Major 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.

In the 1990s the Elephant 6 collective, including acts like The Apples in Stereo, The Olivia Tremor Control, Neutral Milk Hotel, Elf Power and of Montreal, produced eclectic psychedelic rock and folk. Other alternative acts to pursue psychedelia from the 1990s included The Brian Jonestown Massacre, Porno For Pyros, and Super Furry Animals. In the early 1990s stoner rock emerged, combining elements of psychedelic rock, blues-rock, and doom metal. Typically using 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. In the UK the Madchester scene influenced the early sound of 1990s Britpop bands like Blur and Oasis, who drew on 1960s psychedelic pop and rock. In the immediate post-Britpop era Kula Shaker incorporated swirling, guitar-heavy sounds of late-’60s psychedelia and with Indian mysticism and spirituality. In the new millennium neo-psychedelia was continued by bands directly emulating the sounds of the 60s like Tame Impala and The Essex Green, while bands like Animal Collective applied an experimental approach that combined genres from the 1960s and the present.

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