First there was Aphrodite’s Child and its mad fusions of extreme psychedelia and extreme pop. Eventually, there was Academy Award winning soundtrack stuff so definitive it’s since become kind of a cliché. In the middle somewhere is Earth, Vangelis Papathanasiou‘s first solo album, where the two extremes fuse and find all kinds of room to move. Aeons of it as We Were All Uprooted attests, both ethereal and grounded, like history itself shrouded in mist, the clues buried in the earth.
The Godfathers being another one of those 1980s bands that should’ve hit way bigger than they did, with 1988’s Birth School Work Death (song and album) the closest they ever came to a proper breakthrough. “When I Am I Coming Down is exactly what it sounds like. The story of a bad trip. My friend Gary likened it to losing control of your car. You’re bombing along at high speed and everything’s perfect, superlative even. Until you’re halfway around a bend, going maybe ninety mph and you lose traction, with various trees, a ditch, a fence, all looming. You are going to crash. The question is, how will you crash? And what will you crash into? Everything playing out in very slow motion.” (Philip Random)
Original reggae upsetter Lee Scratch Perry plus the Dub Syndicate plus Adrian Sherwood‘s mix mastery equals Time Boom X De Devil Dead, arguably the greatest (mostly) forgotten album of all time. Mad rants, left field boasts, insights that only make sense once you stop trying to make sense of them — all set to grooves that can’t help but melt in your mind. “Needless to say, we listened to this a lot whilst tripping the old lysergic back in the day. Who ever said reggae wasn’t psychedelic, or the 1980s for that matter?” (Philip Random)
“Maybe I’d would’ve liked them more if they hadn’t call themselves the Psychedelic Furs. Or as a friend once put it – too much fur, not enough psychedelic. But that doesn’t apply to the first album, which was cool and dark and working more edges than any normal reality could offer. And a rare sound that was in 1980, the new decade dawning with all of its overblown and over-shiny colours and sounds and whatever else. In fact, you can do a pretty good job of tracking all that by just lining up the first three Psychedelic Furs album covers in chronological order. Not bad. Just not getting better.” (Philip Random)
In which The Melodic Energy Commission, Vancouver based pychedelicists hook up with a Hawkwind refugee, ignore all the punk rock and vitriol that’s raging around them at the time, go deep and high instead, and deliver an essential travelogue for those keen on exploring the great beyond within. The drugs in question? Most likely some of the local shrooms that are so prevalent every autumn once the big autumn rains start a-falling. The album in question? Stranger in Mystery. It’s a trip.
“In which Canada’s The Guess Who, on the verge of genuine BIGness (they’d be outselling the Beatles in 1970), smell the wheat and get cosmic, reference the Bible and otherwise lay down the elusive truth for all god’s children. Seriously, note the title. It’s not The Key, but simply, significantly, psychedelically KEY.” (Philip Random)
They sold their share of records, but Love and Rockets never really got the respect they deserved in the 1980s. Serious fans of Bauhaus (the band from which all three had come) stayed huddled together in windowless rooms awaiting the resurrection of their main man, Peter Murphy (which never really happened). Serious art types were too busy getting their ears shredded by the likes of The Jesus + Mary Chain. Meanwhile David Jay, Kevin Haskins and Daniel Ash kept cranking out some of the coolest, best psychedelic sounds since the 1960s.
“Dr. John (aka Mac Rebennack) serves up some genuinely weird gumbo with one of those songs that sound exactly like what they’re about, not that I’m remotely clear what this is about. Except how could it not be about great primordial swamps, and heat, and weird stews laced with certain medicinal ingredients, which thus take one well beyond normal notions of space, time, meaning, unmeaning. From 1971’s The Sun Moon + Herbs, one of those albums that’s always existed way outside of time, both backward looking and still lightyears beyond any now that’s ever been. I’d call it beautiful but that would just confuse things.” (Philip Random)
“A Sonic Youth song about Joni Mitchell (or so I think I read somewhere years ago), found on 1988’s Daydream Nation, a psychedelic epic if there ever was one (even if it did show up in a most un-psychedelic year), or whatever. I’ve always had trouble putting words to Daydream Nation like an unexpected future kicking through all the gloom and permafrost of its time, full of cool and fierce and infinitely complex noise, and in that complexity hope. Or something like that.” (Philip Random)