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• • • Being a journal by artist and designer John Coulthart, cataloguing interests, obsessions and passing enthusiasms.


 

The Dukes declare it’s 25 O’Clock!

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25 O’Clock (1985). Andy Partridge’s great cover design.

The DUKES say it’s time…it’s time to visit the planet smile…it’s time the love bomb was dropped…it’s time to eat music…it’s time to kiss the sun…it’s time to drown yourself in SOUNDGASM and it’s time to dance through the mirror. The DUKES declare it’s 25 O’CLOCK.

It was twenty-five years today…April 1st, 1985…that Virgin Records released what was supposed to be a reissue of a lost psychedelic album from the late 1960s, 25 O’Clock by The Dukes of Stratosphear. The catalogue number was WOW 1 and the vinyl label was printed with the old black-and-white Virgin logo by Roger Dean even though Virgin Records wasn’t founded until 1972. No one was supposed to know that the album was really a pastiche project by XTC but I don’t recall anyone actually being fooled by this, all the reviews acknowledged XTC as the originators, and band members Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding were happy to give interviews enthusing about their musical obsessions. As well as being incredibly successful artistically the album was a surprising commercial success which led the bemused record label to ask for a sequel. Psonic Psunspot followed two years later and the Dukes’ vibe infected XTC’s own work for a while, with their 1988 album, Oranges & Lemons, pitched somewhere between the pastiches and the group’s more customary sound .

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Psonic Psunspot (1987). Design by Dave Dragon and Ken Ansell.

Given the way in which Eighties’ music is remembered today it might seem that the appearance of 25 O’Clock was quite unprecedented but a current of interest in the psychedelic era had been there for a while. Siouxsie & the Banshees were a notable example, eager to avoid being trapped in a Goth cul-de-sac with their covers of the Beatles’ Dear Prudence and Julie Driscoll’s This Wheel’s On Fire while Banshees’ side project The Glove (Steve Severin & Robert Smith) had another take on psychedelia. In Los Angeles the bands who formed what was eventually labelled the Paisley Underground had been performing and exchanging members since 1981 although I’ve only ever considered the Rain Parade to be fully psychedelic in sound and attitude. The Bam Caruso and See For Miles reissue labels were active throughout the decade, and when Bam Caruso’s magazine offshoot, Strange Things Are Happening, appeared in 1988 the first issue included an interview with the Dukes. Many of the other quasi-psych bands of the time are documented on Rhino’s Children of Nuggets, an excellent compilation whose first track is by…the Dukes of Stratosphear.

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“The Dukes were the band we all wanted to be in when we were at school. Purple, giggling, fuzztone, liquid and arriving. If you want to know where those cheap charlatans ‘The Beatles’, ‘Pink Floyd’, ‘The Byrds’, ‘The Hollies’ and ‘The Beach Boys’ stole their ideas from, well just listen to this and weep.” Andy Partridge.

XTC beat everyone at the psych game, however, being more obsessed with the music and also prodigiously adept at imitating the songwriting styles of the period. They were superior songwriters generally, of course, but you only have to compare their pitch-perfect Beach Boys’ pastiche, Pale and Precious, with Primal Scream’s ham-fisted attempt at a similar style, Inner Flight, to see how distant they were from the competition. Of the two Dukes albums, 25 O’Clock is still my favourite. With only six songs it’s shorter than the follow-up and works harder to pack as many clichés of psychedelic songwriting and recording into the smallest space. Psonic Psunspot tends to parcel its influences song by song whereas 25 O’Clock happily mashes up musical motifs and wild effects to create a sound that’s even more delirious and deranged than its period models. It’s also more oriented towards UK psychedelia which I often prefer over the American variety. Psonic Psunspot did add one new ingredient in the form of a young girl’s fragmented narration which nods to both Alice in Wonderland and the nonsense narration by Stanley Unwin from the second half of Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake by The Small Faces. Both albums had great covers. Andy Partridge collaged a pile of cuttings from Dover Publications’ clip-art books for the first release in an attempt to emulate Martin Sharp’s cover for Cream’s Disraeli Gears. Psonic Psunspot riffs on cover art by Japanese collagist Tadanori Yokoo with some angels plundered from Gustave Doré and a title design à la Hapshash and the Coloured Coat.

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The Mole from the Ministry single label.

Both albums were reissued last year by Andy Partridge’s Ape House label in splendid CD editions with additional tracks plus the two promo films made for the singles. In the booklet notes Partridge and co. detail their determination to be as authentic as possible with their choice of guitars and use of an antique Mellotron. Continual praise is given to producer John Leckie (aka Swami Anand Nagara) whose attention to detail did so much to conjure an authentic atmosphere. Leckie began his career engineering Pink Floyd sessions in Abbey Road so he knew many of the old studio tricks such as running two tapes out of synch to create a phased effect. It was his work on 25 O’Clock which led the Stone Roses to seek him out as a producer for their debut album a few years later.

If these works sound tempting then I’d recommend buying direct from Ape House. If you’re really, really tempted they have the The Complete & Utter Dukes Box Set which contains both albums plus other goodies including a t-shirt and jigsaw puzzle. Meanwhile, XTC site Chalkhills has sub-sections devoted to 25 O’Clock and Psonic Psunspot with lyrics, pictures and release ephemera.

The Dukes at YouTube: Mole From The Ministry | You’re A Good Man Albert Brown

Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The album covers archive

Previously on { feuilleton }
Roger Dean: artist and designer
Max (The Birdman) Ernst
The New Love Poetry
Strange Things Are Happening, 1988–1990

 


 

Posted in {collage}, {design}, {magazines}, {music}, {psychedelia}.

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36 comments or trackbacks

  1. #1 posted by Claire

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    Love and Rockets Express was another of those psychedelic 80s albums….

  2. #2 posted by John

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    Aha…that’s one I’ve not heard.

  3. #3 posted by JulesLt

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    One of the big inspirations for the Dukes record was Nick Nicely – his ’49 Cigars’ is probably the most obviously psychedelic track.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fxxdRfNgSaE

    I always like Opal out of the Paisley Underground lot best.

  4. #4 posted by Li-An

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    Nice sound. I did not know the group.

  5. #5 posted by Dave C

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    One of my all-time favourites! Couldn’t believe what I was hearing when first exposed to this some twenty years ago… Other than the recording date, what’s the dividing line between real and fake psychedelia? Pastiche or not, this feels like the real deal.

  6. #6 posted by lord cornelius plum

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    Guess im going to have to comment here………
    The 80s were perhaps the time that pop started to look back on itself (although there had been murmurs before). It was a dark time politically and socially, and after the anger of punk had burned itself out,one of the routes out of it was nostalgia, especially for a time brighter and more revolutionary( unlike most rock critics, i dont see nostalgia as being necessarily a bad thing). For me , at that time, Madonna , George Michael and U2 werent really saying much. Psychedelia had been around as an influence on the post punk scene for a long time, mostly in its monochromatic/doomy/garage punk forms, but this was one of the first times a band came out of the closet and nailed its freak flag to the mast.
    I sometimes think of the 80s as the second age of psychedelia, since it informed so much underground music of that time – not only the revival bands like the Fuzztones, but post hardcore groups like the Butthole Surfers, indie bands like Spacemen 3, acid house,even the birth of stoner metal with groups like Pentagram.(Interesting also how modern artists like James Ferraro are psychedelicising the 80s with all that hypnagogic pop stuff…)
    The Paisley Underground bands were mostly CCR/Neil Young type country rockers – nothing wrong with that, but not really psych. Apart from Rain Parade, i always loved the three oclock – charming fey pop psych with 80s production(still like it).
    The dukes didnt just inspire alot of modern psych, but also alot of fake “60s” bands – from pastiche like Naz Nomad and the nightmares (the Damned) and Rabbi Joseph Gordon (Julian Cope) to more genuine psychy artifacts like Walter Ghouls Lavender Brigade and the Fraternal Order of the All (also maybe some psych “reissues” that may not be all they seem……Big Boy Pete……)
    Nick Nicely was surely the John the Baptist of this era, Andy Partrdge citing him as THE influence on the Dukes.
    Lovely post John, im going to have to play 25 oclock again this morning (a record ive bought 3 times – those recent reissues are gorgeous)
    Is all that we see or seem but a dream withinn a dream?

  7. #7 posted by John

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    Jules: Nick Nicely completely evaded my radar somehow. Surprising that he’s not on the Children of Nuggets comp. And Opal were great too, but then Dave Roback was in them. I also like Mazzy Star.

    Lord Cornelius Plum: I’d have been surprised if you didn’t comment… I agree that 80s psych was almost a revival it was so widespread, the Rhino collection shows that. I think one very basic reason is that you had a lot of people of more-or-less the same age playing with their own childhood memories of the Sixties, Andy Partridge’s quote above says as much. There was some of that in the Seventies–a lot of glam stuff harks back to Fifties’ rock’n'roll but it was never so widespread. I remember hearing Nuggets for the first time around 82 or 83 and getting really excited by it; if I’d been in a band I’d have wanted to do something like the Electric Prunes. At the end of the Eighties you got the whole Madchester thing kicking off as well…

    Was Big Boy Pete not genuine? That would explain a lot! I only know him from Jon Savage’s list of 100 great psych tracks which led me to find the Electric Sugarcube Flashbacks compilation.

  8. #8 posted by lord cornelius plum

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    Im pretty certain “Cold Turkey” – Big Boy Petes single – is genuine, but i have my doubts about the raft of albums hes released since, either as Big Boy Pete or Pete Miller. Im sure some of them are “genuine” 60s recordings, but alot of it sounds way too modern to my ears. Have to say, though, they are perfectly listenable albums , just possibly not authentic (whatever that is).
    Theres a few krautrock albums that came out of the PSI-FI label in the nineties (the Nazgul, Temple, Cozmic Corridors) that always seemed dubious to me,despite claiming to be from the early seventies. The name P.Orridge in the credits on them doesnt help either. (Again, some great music…)
    I kind of like the idea of hoaxes like this – the past is gone and we can write whatever myths about it we like. Its all up for grabs. In 100 years time, the average music fan isnt going to know who came first, the Dukes or the Electric Prunes.It wont matter. But i think the music will still be inspiring people…..
    Try to hear the Nick Niceley album issued a few years ago (Psychotropia). Its not perfect but at its best its amazing. “Hilly Fields” was rumoured to have Kate Bush saying “pimply little postboy ” on it (you have to hear it), but im not so sure……

  9. #9 posted by lord cornelius plum

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    Just a quick one – Wouldnt it have been great if all this psychedelia had burst into the mainstream in the 80s? Imagine – Duran Duran making cosmic sci fi concept albums with backwards sitars and pulsing electronics instead of the vapid Thatcherite cocaine pop they actually did make. Boy george as a cosmic androgyne acid freak…….i think i need to lie down………

  10. #10 posted by JulesLt

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    Sorry for the pithy comment earlier – was in a hurry to get out of the door to work – I think Lord Cornelius has the right description of Nick Nicely’s work. He’s mentioned in the recent Dukes piece in Shindig magazine.

    It was something that had passed me by until a couple of years ago too, until a friend played it to me, and like yourself I am surprised I’d missed it for so long (given that I’ve been reading likes of Strange Things, Ptolemaic Terrascope, etc for years) – although he did recently play his first live gig with the Bevis Frond (they did a nice gig poster as a limited print).

    Remembering the late 80s, the other big strand not mentioned so far was the whole Ozric Tentacles type crowd (i.e. the more free festival side of psychedelia and the missing link between Hawkwind and Spiral Tribe) – not my thing, but it was pretty big, and there were more than a few places where we’d all cross together (I recall a few psyche nights at the Swinging Sporran in Manchester).

    I’m still toying with buying the re-issues . . . so many other things getting in the way – particularly the String Band re-issues, and new albums by their musical grandchildren (Family Elan and Trembling Bells).

  11. #11 posted by Jeremiah Q. Oxterwhiff

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    Another fascinating post, Mr Coulthart – one never accesses {feuilleton} without either learning something new or having one’s curiosity piqued.
    And a treat today, offline, to turn to a new month in your own Psychedelic Calendar.
    If you haven’t already seen it, by the way, there’s a nice example of “the recurrent pose” at Crashingly Beautiful (posted 31/03/10, reblogged from vindsval). It’s a photograph by F Holland Day: I know you’ve posted an example of his work before.

  12. #12 posted by lord cornelius plum

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    The reissues are great – little books with hardback covers, bonus tracks and ,as John said, videos.Definately something to own rather than download. But if money is tight, and its a choice of something old and something NOW…….hmmmm….. tough one. That Trembling Bells album is pretty good too…..

  13. #13 posted by Stephen

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    Dave C asked

    “Other than the recording date, what’s the dividing line between real and fake psychedelia?”

    I think it would be the degree to which the use of lysergic acid diethylamide was an intergral part of the recording process.

    John, your post reminds me of the real tragedy of the transition from LPs to CDs. Not the sound but the loss of the LP album cover in all its resplendent glory.

  14. #14 posted by JulesLt

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    Ah, I have found an excuse – my fiance exclaimed ‘OH my god that’s BRILLIANT! I MUST have one!’ about the box set so that’s the anniversary present sorted!

    If you like the Trembling Bells, the Black Flowers album is worth checking out – it is kind of the missing link between The Directing Hand and Trembling Bells, with a fantastic cover of Polly On the Shore. The Family Elan are basically the other half of Scatter from Trembling Bells – there’s a similar Incredible String Band influence, but much more on the middle-Eastern droning side.

    There’s also The Pendulums – Lavinia and Mike’s pre-TB band, who are very much on the Bonzo’s/sillier side of ISB/whimsical songs about gnomes. I’d say that’s more a pastiche.

    The other one that’s intriguing me is the new Weller album, seeing as he’s claiming the Broadcast/Focus Group album to be something that sent him diving into their back catalog (10 years late, especially considering Julian House does most of his musical peers record sleeves) – and he was also very positive about the first Trembling Bells album. 30 years to move from 64 to 67/68!

  15. #15 posted by John

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    Lord Cornelius Plum: I think I’ve got a compilation of that Krautrock stuff somewhere (unless I returned the CD to Vinyl Exchange). I don’t remember liking it much but it was better than some of the music from the same era like Mythos and Frumpy.

    If Duran Duran had gone psych that might done something to alleviate their numerous taste offences. I remembered a couple of other 80s albums today which were reviewed as being “psychedelic” at the time: Marc Almond’s first solo, Untitled, includes a Syd Barrett song among other cover versions although the album doesn’t really sound psychedelic as such. (Not heard it for a long time, however.) He later did his own version of The Days of Pearly Spencer which Mr Savage includes in his Psych 100 list so there’s another connection. The debut album from Matt “The The” Johnson, Burning Blue Soul justifies the term to a greater degree. Its original sleeve design featured a big eye and a lot of swirls while the music is far more processed than his later work.

    Jules: I’ll check out some of those bands myself. The Weller thing is rather amusing, like Alan McGee’s recent mea culpa about Pink Floyd.

    Jeremiah: Thanks for the F Holland Day tip. I’d seen that photo before but in a tiny version, possibly when I started searching for Flandrin clones. Too many Tumblr blogs out there, it’s impossible to keep up.

    Stephen: Yes, CDs are frequently too small and nasty unless you find an artist who’ll let you be adventurous. Hardformat does a good job of documenting how things could be if people took a chance more often. As it happens, I’ve been doing a lot of design for vinyl over the past couple of years but it’s mostly a case of doing the CD first then scaling up to the vinyl size and the electronic artists involved usually don’t want anything which looks too fancy. This reminds me that I need to update my website, there’s a lot of recent work which hasn’t been posted.

  16. #16 posted by Unsupervised Thinking

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    I heard Andy Partridge interviewed about the reissue, and my impression is that it was never a hoax, always a tribute. Quite a nice one, though I didn’t rush out and buy it.

    I didn’t know the original b&w Virgin logo was by Roger Dean. I didn’t think I liked him.

    I don’t think I’d say that the 80s were when bands started looking back, exactly; that would be more the 90s, with Oasis and BritPop (I usually call that movement something else). I think the Banshees were one of the bands who began the process of excavation, reinvention and refitting.

    Generalisations, of course, and poorly expressed. But I’m sure there’s a significant distinction.

    TCP: Yes, it would. Bananarama & some of the others were a bit like that anyway, but imagine if it had infected their records. Mmmmm…. Bananarama and drugs…

  17. #17 posted by Unsupervised Thinking

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    Oh, and the Beach Boys stole their ideas from Phil Spector, everyone knows that.

  18. #18 posted by lord cornelius plum

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    Almond is, of course, amazing, and i loved that album at the time (or perhaps a bit afterwards). Dark and druggy but not psychedelic. More cheap speed and poppers perhaps? (God, i remember nights like that……where did they all go?) Incidently, his last album of covers is amazing.
    Ive not heard The The for years. I didnt like them much at the time, but tastes change and time makes things sound differently…..ill definately check it out.
    I recall Duran Duran claiming the only threat to their throne was the Teardrop Explodes “if julian can keep it together”. I guess they were the (almost) mainstream 80s psych act i was fantasising about.Oh, what could have been…

  19. #19 posted by lord cornelius plum

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    I have the Black Flowers album somewhere, i recall it being pretty good. I actually think we are going through something of a golden age for psychedelic music at the moment – theres just so many bands out there to check out – all that Hauntological/Ghost Box stuff, Hypnogogic Pop, way more acid folk than anyone could listen to in 5 lifetimes, heavy acid rock bands like Sun Araw and Eternal Tapestry, psych punk bands like Skull Defekts…..it just goes on and on. Its alot like the 80s, its all underground, buried. All you have to do is lift the rocks up and see whats underneath.

  20. #20 posted by JulesLt

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    Just recalled the Vibrasonic album, which was very Dukes like – it was a relatively early Toe-Rag production, with Liam Watson pulling out all the stops for an ‘authentic’ sound. The songwriting isn’t as strong as the Dukes LP, but pretty enjoyable. Early 90s rather than 80s though.

    Other current things – I’ve been playing the Voice of the Seven Thunders album loud, but that’s getting much more into the heavy jamming side. Again, not so good on the tunes.

    As to when things started looking back – it definitely pre-dated Oasis and Britpop – I kind of trace it back to the Television Personalities (and The Times to a lesser degree) who are really the Godfathers of that Creation aesthetic (or at least the backward looking part).

    The other way I like to look at it is as a continuum – through Eno to Wire and Magazine and XTC.

  21. #21 posted by John

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    Matt Johnson’s debut is great and not really like anything else being done at that point. Sounds a bit harsh now but it was one of those micro-budget recordings and I think he plays everything himself. The first The The album proper, Soul Mining, I’d rate as one of the best albums of the decade but I lost interest after that; the tunes got ditched in favour of lyrical bluster.

    Regarding looking into the past, everything is too permeable to find a fixed boundary. When I was designing stuff for Steve Severin (egregious namedrop…*cough*) he said that all the early punks he knew were into Roxy Music, hence the Banshees covering Sea Breezes later on. Before the Sex Pistols had any songs of their own they rehearsed playing numbers by freakbeat outfit The Creation (whence the record label name, of course). A lot of the glam era is Fifties rock’n'roll with makeup and glitter suits: Gary Glitter, Alvin Stardust et al. As for the Beatles… Their early albums are full of cover versions. Later on you’ve got Paul harking back to the songwriting of the Twenties and Thirties while John’s slapback vocal echo–which is on nearly everything he ever recorded–is another throwback to rock’n'roll. Then there’s his 1970s’ collection of cover versions, Rock’n'roll… Thousands of musicians in the Sixties wanted to be blues singers of the 1930s, Bob Dylan was aping Woodie Guthrie, etc, etc. People learn from the past all the time. I only object when some imitation is poorly realised, as with the Primal Scream example cited above. The Velvets or the Stones are easy to thieve from, imitating a Brian Wilson arrangement is a different matter.

  22. #22 posted by lord cornelius plum

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    Also worth mentioning perhaps that there were “retro” (hate that word) bands in the sixties too – Bonzos, New Vaudeville Band, Purple Gang, even the Fugs and the Holy Modal Rounders, plus the obligatory 20s number on most american psych albums of the era. I guess it was all tied up with ideas of camp and kitsch, but like the best of that stuff it becomes sublime too.(perhaps not the Vaudeville Band!) . The 80s just seemed to be a flowering of that sort of thing, as if that current had surfaced.
    It would have been the later Matt Johnson albums id heard, courtesy of an old girlfriend (boy, was she barking up the wrong tree…poor girl..). a friend has some of those albums on his record stall, ill have to check them out.

  23. #23 posted by JulesLt

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    I really liked Soul Mining, but in retrospect the best track is lifted from The Temptations ‘Papa Was A Rolling Stone’.

    I did think about the number of 60s albums that would have a track that would be recorded to sound like a gramophone track, or music hall song, and the blues influence on the likes of the Stones, and the late 60s back-to-blues stuff – and of course the whole folk revival was as out-of-time in the early 70s as it was now – but I think the key difference is that by-and-large these were odd tracks, or influences, rather than the foundation of a whole sound.

  24. #24 posted by Unsupervised Thinking

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    Retro is always with us and always will be. Of course. But I think that pop’s development, in some ways, stopped and fragmented some time in the 80s. We’ve been mixing and matching the same elements ever since. I can’t see a fixed boundary though, there or anywhere.

    IIRC that first Marc Almond double has Matt Johnson on some of the tracks. That first one looked pretty psychedelic to me, certainly on the artwork. Always some interesting and nice things on Marc’s albums, he’s generally ignored as a kind of ridiculous figure. I can’t help thinking there’s a kind of homophobia going on there, in the laddish tendencies of the boy DJ and music reviewer. I think he and Soft Cell were underrated.

    I remember reading that Lennon started the phasing and double vocal tracking because he was insecure about his voice (which seems shocking, it’s one of the great rock voices, certainly when produced by Phil Spector).

  25. #25 posted by JulesLt

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    I was thinking the same thing – about the clock stopping at the end of the 80s – but the more I thought about it, the less it was actually true – there is music out there that doesn’t sound like it could have been made in an earlier era – but notably, almost none of it is made by bands.

    (It’s hard to think of a purely guitar/bass/drums based act who have found a new direction after ‘Daydream Nation’ and ‘Loveless’, for instance. Most attempts to move out of that impasse have tended to involve moving more into electronics, and away from live playing – although I recall seeing Autechre do a phenomenal live electronic performance in the mid-90s).

    I guess the other big thing that’s changed has been the music industry – by which I mean radio as much as labels – has become a lot more risk-averse, and it’s a lot easier to recycle a familiar sounhttp://www.johncoulthart.com/feuilleton/wp-content/themes/grid_focus_public/images/btn_submit.gifd – especially as you can sell it to 3 generations.

    For what it’s worth, I’m not sure it’s purely homophobia with Marc Almond – the British music press has long had a suspicion of the melodramatic, even if our youth do not – Placebo and Muse were never well received by the music press, Scott Walker wasn’t understood by rock fans in the 60s.

    I think you’re spot on with the laddishness – or rather middle class journalists who think laddishness equals working-class authenticity (it’s ironic that Morrissey has a far more working-class background than Ian Brown, for instance).

  26. #26 posted by JulesLt

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    A small footnote – the interview with MGMT in this month’s Mojo is intriguing – Sonic Boom, Dan Treacy, and mid-80s Cope (80s psychedelia as a new seam of untapped retro??)

  27. #27 posted by Modzilla

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    Just finished listening to the new MGMT album and on the whole, it’s pretty good you can certainly hear the TVPs influence on a couple of tracks. I’d second the Vibrasonic recommendation but if it’s psych your’e after get their first album as their second consists entirely of surf instrumentals. One of their ex-members has an amusing Myspace page under the name Vic Vibrato’s Amphibious Aquarium. A couple of other bands not mentioned here but thoroughly recommended are The Olivia Tremor Control, a 90′s psychedelic band from Athens, Georgia who were part of a larger collective of bands called Elephant Six and Plasticland, who are my personal favourites of the 80′s psych revival and whose first three albums remain, to this day, a constant source of bejeweled wonder.

  28. #28 posted by JulesLt

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    I’d forgotten about the 2nd Vibrasonic album. Largely for that reason.

    Another one I remembered since – the first Simian album – Chemistry is What We Are – was quite trippy, without being a 60s pastiche (closest would be Silver Apples, but the production actually made use of modern equipment to make new noises)

  29. #29 posted by Unsupervised Thinking

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    JulesLT:

    I know what you mean, the idea that pop’s clock stopped, in some ways, at the arse end of the 80s, is unverifiable. Further, there’s strong evidence against the proposition.

    But it felt true! I was there, I was 15, and my girlfriend-and-I’s favorite song was X-Ray Spex’s ‘I Can’t Do Anything’, from over-a-whole-decade before. We were painfully aware that the mighty Spex weren’t doing anything by then. (It’s as well that we didn’t know Poly was probably prancing around as a Hari Krishna clone by that time.)

    I don’t think we knew about early hip-hop. There was good stuff about, but there wasn’t much and it wasn’t in the mainstream. We had to mine the past. Most of my fave raves are 70s, even there. We were living in the No Future.

    And if it *feels* true, then, were pop’s concerned, it is true, even if it isn’t really, in hindsight. (Favorite band today: The Go! Team, something totally new. But very retro at the same time.)

  30. #30 posted by JulesLt

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    I had friends who were into electro/hip-hop and break-dancing, and I borrowed a lot of Street Sounds tapes off them at the time, so I was aware of a lot of that stuff – it wasn’t a big leap from the New Order of ‘Confusion’ to electro from the Bronx.

    But for some reason that whole ‘scene’ didn’t grab me, in the same way I was caught the first time I heard the Cocteau Twins ‘Treasure’ – or even, right at the top of the pop charts, Kate Bush.

    And personally, at the time, I didn’t feel that nostalgic – there was a lot going on that seemed new and exciting – I’m sure the same is true for today’s absolute beginners, and each weeks new release emails from Boomkat and Piccadilly still bring new sounds.

    I’m still struggling to articulate this but a few things spring to mind :

    In the 80s, there were plenty of bands that had a retro sound – from the TVPs through Primal Scream and other C86 acts – but none of them were that successful. I’m distinguishing that from bands that used retro influences – XTC, Tears For Fears ‘Sewing the Seeds of Love’ – with modern production.

    I think the key is that I just can’t imagine a band like Oasis being successful in the 80s, and that change – the change to something as outright retro as Oasis becoming the biggest band in the UK – tells us something.

    And since that point, there’s been this sensation of acts trying to find the next revival.

  31. #31 posted by JulesLt

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    Not all of them, of course – it’s more the rise of retromancy as a dominant form in pop culture. Pop will eat itself, indeed.

  32. #32 posted by Unsupervised Thinking

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    Why can’t I make comments here anymore? I’ve posted comment 32 five times now…

  33. #33 posted by Unsupervised Thinking

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    And that’s just daft. I wonder if it’s because I said ‘s–ist, r–ist’ instead of ‘stuff’?

    Retromancy, good term. Not seen that before. Retromancy is all over cutlure, not just music.

    I think it’s ultimately impossible to interpret music with words.

    I think what’s probably key is commercialisation, post Band Aid and MTV. Band Aid restored the aristocracy to the charts, as it were. This phenomenon has only grown since.

    I did mention New Order, but cut it because I didn’t want to get into writing a list of things I liked when I was 15. But New Order didn’t resonate in quite the same way. They seemed a bit angular, a bit classical, even. Again I’m struggling to articulate, here. And I didn’t make the Hacienda until later. And most hip-hop, even more than most things, is mostly crap.

    I’m not sure that it is the same for today’s absolute beginners. Music is exciting, but it doesn’t dominate youth culture as it did unless, perhaps, you’re young, black and incredibly misogynist; you should hear the stuff that comes through my bedroom wall sometimes. I’m just pleased he’s hardly ever there. (The offender in question is 35 or so now, but DJs in clubs and for some horrid pirate station.)

    Primal Scream, well-overrated.

  34. #34 posted by John

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    Sorry about that, it was the Akismet spam filter suddenly seizing your comments for some reason. I’ve restored the last of them. I can’t avoid using a spam filter since this blog currently receives around 250 spam comments a day; in the past there have been floods of several thousand per day. I don’t have the time to approve or delete everything manually so have to rely on software which is pretty good most of the time. For an idea of the problem (which affects all blogs) there’s this graph.

    BTW, I have a habit of always copying any comment I make before I hit a “Post” button, here or elsewhere. That way if the software fails for some reason whatever you’ve written isn’t completely lost and you can try again.

  35. #35 posted by Unsupervised Thinking

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    Hi John!

    Thanks for the restoration.

    Yes, I copy my comments too. They altered because I kept retyping and rewriting them to see what was being filtered out, and in the process I would alter them further. I entirely understand the use of a spam filter. I think there must have been a bit of corruption in my first try, whch I would have pasted in from a TextEdit file.

    You’ve restored the last 3 actually, 34 and 35 could go if you felt like it! I feel like a right twat…

  36. #36 posted by JulesLt

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    Retromancy – nicked from the comic Phonogram (which deals very much on the theme of the past as inspiration vs revivalism).

    >And most hip-hop, even more than most things, is mostly crap.

    I mentioned hip-hop and New Order more because there’s always been this argument that the ‘problem with rock music’ is that it ignored new Black American music, after it went synthetic (electro, house, hip-hop, techno).

    Whereas I was exposed to that stuff, at the time, and I liked some of it – but at the time it wasn’t as interesting to me as stuff coming out on 4AD. Cabaret Voltaire seemed a lot more interesting electronic music than most pre-acid house.

    What I’m getting at was that there was that I didn’t have any sense that the things I was listening to had all been done before – and not all of that was down to ignorance.

    The more I think about it, the more I think the sea-change might have been Nirvana, rather than Oasis – but it was definitely around that 92-95 period – things sonically got a lot more ‘meat and two veg’ – I guess the focus was a lot more on lyrics and the frontman.

    For what it’s worth, I think the balance has been shifting back the other way over the last few years (again, just as it’s impossible to imagine Oasis being big in the 80s, you couldn’t imagine Animal Collective or Joanna Newsom being successful 10 years ago).

    >I’m not sure that it is the same for today’s absolute beginners.
    I’m probably biased because the reason I know many younger people is because they are musicians, DJs or promoters – but I can see a similar sense of enthusiasm.

 


 

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