Getting Nu-Psyched About It: The Ultimate C-110 for the New Cause

By shane

Well, they've done it. And it certainly didn't take long.

The British weeklies have created a new genre. Britpop has officially breathed its last, Shed Seven are putting out greatest hits albums, you knew it was time for a change. The hype-hungry media couldn't wait to put a new scene together the old-fashioned way: make one up.

BUT... this time they had to be cautious about it. Britpop was a fluke - a massive trend, heralded early by the press - that actually paid off. Too many times in the past have the magazines tried to piece together a "new, exciting scene" that proceeded to flop right off the planet without nary a soul giving a rat's ass.

GENRE-TAGGING. The UK press live by it – it’s their bread and butter. Let's take a recent look at the history of the malicious act…

First there was MADCHESTER. The Great White Hope of 1988. The scene that saved the papers from bankruptcy. Something to get the kids excited again. And it worked. And already we heard dissention from the bands: "We're not all from Manchester, you know." "There's not really that much of a scene, you know." We knew all too well -- we just didn't accept it.

What do you do when Madchester gets over-played? Why, invent the anti-genre, of course. Hallo, SHOEGAZING. Attack of the distortion pedal wielding art-schoolers. The critics loved it -- until they realized that no one was buying their papers. Until they realized that it's hard to write a good concert review of a stoic band (but thank gosh they got the practice in, what with Oasis waiting in the wings...)

Until they realized that SUEDE were far more fascinating, and for a brief while, were a genre in their own right. Let's face it - Brett Anderson was made for this sorta stuff. He's fey, he's bi, he beats his arse with a tambourine... what does that make? Why, it makes, you guessed it, "The Best New Band In Britain." Record deal to follow.

Then came the years of failure. I like to call 'em "microgenres." NME and Melody Maker flailing around to desperately catch the newest scene and make the kids go crazy. Remember "Riot Grrrl"? Remember "New Wave of New Wave"?? (shudder) Remember ROMO??

And then along comes Oasis... and Blur... two bands that sound as similar as oil and water. Let's put em together in a genre and watch 'em go a few rounds. Behold the dawn of BRITPOP. But Oasis and Blur are secondary, remember... the real heroes of the scene are yet again the "Best New Band in Britain"... that's right, the glory, the spectacle, the sheer astounding awe of MENSWE@R. And boy, are they sure going strong to this day.

So Britpop dies... and the weeklies have spent the last couple of years desperately trying to build new scenes out of nothing. "DADROCK." Ocean Colour Scene do not a genre make. "NEW PROG." Erm... Radiohead are a great band and all, but, erm, it's tough to come up with anyone else in the "scene" other than, oh, Arnold.

But this time they've done it. I've got the proof, and it's in the NME dated May 22, 1999.

Attention: Citizens of Earth. Behold


An entire issue devoted to this new genre which the NME has pulled from their grand, glorious arsehole. And here's the sad bit: Just like some of the others, I'm totally and completely hooked, and standing tall in the queue for the ride.

Why? Cause I reeeally, reeeally, reeeeeeeally like the music this time around. It's about time that folks start taking themselves seriously in their music again.

See, I must admit to you all that I've been in a bit of a music catharsis as of late. Virtually nothing has come out all year that I've been decidedly ecstatic about -- and the bands that I have liked this year have been, for the most part, American (a notion that's honestly always been a novelty up to this point in my life.)

And I got scared... I thought, "Oh, holy fuck, I'm getting old." I'm sitting round my apartment listening to old Slowdive records, wondering if this is what happened to my dad, when he spent most of the 80's listening to Santana and old Chicago and such. I thought, "This is it. I've finished evolving musically. Might as well call it a day." You may laugh, but take notice that I didn't do a column for May -- I had NOTHING TO SAY. I was more thrilled with spring TV sweeps than I was about music. Sad.

But now I'm back in the saddle again, baby, cause this is the era of "Nu Psychedelia," and as long as the British press insist on ruining great bands by tagging them together into a "scene," I'll be there to lend a hand to the hype machine, cause there's no changing the way things are with the fine folks at the NME, so you might as well enjoy it while it's around.

So what the hell IS "Nu Psychedelia" anyways? Well, according to the NME, it's a handy way to stereotype British groups like the Beta Band and the Super Furries, as well as American bands like Mercury Rev, the Flaming Lips, and all of the wondrous Elephant Six Collective. Now granted I'm not one to lend a hand to stereotyping in the slightest, but the bottom line is that I love each and every one of these bands, so hey - let's contribute to the (lost) cause, I say.

Lost cause? Now, why would I say that? Because "Nu Psychedelia" is the first InstantGenre (just add hype) that is made exclusively for the critics. Who listens to Mercury Rev? Music critics and your really, really cool friends, and that's about it. Mercury Rev are neither bisexual, prone to violence or group shagging, or pin-ups in waiting. Which, in the fickle, fickle world of magazine sales, amounts to pretty much nothing than critical art-wank.

But I, for one, adore critical art-wank, so here's me, supportin' the scene, greasing up the wheels of the ol' Hype Machine once again.

"Nu Psychedelia" is about MUSIC - pure and simple, yet featuring some of the most impure, complex music we've been fortunate enough to hear. Music that makes you think on about 12 levels at once. And, yeah, music to take drugs to. But at the bottom level, it's about being creative -- it's about screwing the notion of record sales or major labels or Top of the Pops, and doing what you LIKE to do - make music that's hipper than thou with nary a thought towards image or glitz (nite nite Britpop.)

So... let's say you bought a Mercury Rev disc and think it's pretty okay. Maybe you want to learn more about this Nu Psychedelic world. That's where this column fits in. It's all I'm gonna do to lend a hand to the "Nu Psyche" craze. For the uninitiated, I give you newcomers a starting point - a way to leap headfirst into the history and present of the Nu Psychedelic Movement of 1999... Yep, that's right, I have painstakingly sorted out the


collect 'em all, mix 'em up, listen til your head bleeds neapolitan..

Side One - The History

The Beatles - Tomorrow Never Knows - The song that started it all. Somebody gives Lennon a tab of acid, and the world's most popular band goes wonderfully wonky. "Turn off your mind/Relax/and float downstream..."

Pink Floyd - Astronomy Domine - Syd Barrett should very well be the Weller of the Nu Psyche generation (too bad he's insane.)

The Electric Prunes - I Had Too Much to Dream Last Night - This lovely nugget can now appropriately be found on the reissue of the "Nuggets" box set, a must-own for Nu Psyche historians.

Beach Boys – Vegetables/I Love to Say Da-Da - The exact point where Brian Wilson's genius began to get the best of him, it really is the sound of a man going loopy, and a band contentedly going, "Umm, okay, we'll sing this if you think it's best."

The Rolling Stones - She's a Rainbow - Seems appropriate to post on the Internet, what with the IMac ad campaign and all... unfortunately, the Stones one album intentional foray into hazy drugdom came a year too late and didn’t sit too well with the fans…

The Doors – Riders on the Storm – Yeah, I know, it IS starting to go a little classic rock at times here, but admittedly, if this song wasn’t ingrained into our skulls thanks to retro radio, you’d think it was pretty damn cool today (and bears more than a passing resemblance to some early Verve tracks, so don’t tell me it wasn’t influential.)

The Velvet Underground – White Light/White Heat – The album that proved that not all psychedelic music has to be pretty. A noisy headfuck of a record, it went on to influence damn near everybody.

The Teardrop Explodes – Tiny Children – About the moment you realized that Julian Cope was a little bit more than just another New Wave hero. One of the under-appreciated songs from the album "Wilder."

Echo and the Bunnymen – "Do It Clean" – He’s got a handful of WHAT? He did it WHAT? The real psychedelic era of the Bunnymen was still to come, but the earlier, raw stuff is where the true power of the band really shone brightest.

Spacemen 3 – "Walkin’ With Jesus" – The band that pretty much put psychedelic music back on the map, and nothing goes better than the song that still gets unearthed every once in a blue Spiritualized gig.

Cocteau Twins – Pearly Dewdrops Drops – God bless (and bless God does – remember, Melody Maker called Liz Fraser "the voice of God") the Cocteau Twins for escaping the gothic tones of their earlier work and going headstrong for worlds that other bands still haven’t reached. Still leaves me breathless to this day.

Stone Roses – "I Am the Resurrection" – And, no, you can’t get away with a single mix – you need the whole eight minute glory on this one. The only song from my college days that I ever noticed my dad bouncing around to in the car – a perfect sign that things were re-grouping.

Primal Scream – "Higher Than the Sun (A Dub Symphony in Two Parts)" – I still think they’re an over-hyped band who lucked out when picking producers, but "Higher Than the Sun" still remains as a testament to the rock world’s response to acid house (plus the lyrics pretty much sum this whole damn thing up.)

Side Two: The Future

My Bloody Valentine – "Soft as Snow (But Warm Inside)" – The record destined to make your "normal" friends think you’re indeed a bit off-kilter. But it’s not so much the song as what it represented – a fresh foray into recording, a band on the verge of something absolutely, totally, and completely NEW.

Ride – "Dreams Burn Down" – I heard the opening drum line and was never the same again. And, just when you think you’ve got a handle on the record, it explodes into a cacophony that sucks out your soul, pushes it about a foot under your floor, and neatly deposits it back at the end. Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant. A song I proudly blew the speakers out in my old car with.

Slowdive – "Celia’s Dream" – I remember seeing Slowdive for the very first time, opening for Ride. Decent enough looking folks, we thought. Fairly non-threatening, we thought. "Cheers," they meekly said. By the end of the set, we were grabbing the balcony railings until our knuckles were white – the wall of sound was so intense you’d truly lose your equilibrium when they would stop playing.

Butthole Surfers – "Hurdy Gurdy Man" – Yep, it’s a cover, so it probably shouldn’t count – but the Butthole Surfers remain around to prove to us all that a life of drug abuse isn’t necessarily fatal. Of course, in their case, it also proved that a life of drug abuse can, in fact, lead to one decent cover and a lifetime of crap music.

Boo Radleys – "Best Lose the Fear" – A bolt to the head from the band that brilliantly reminded us that it was okay to be a bit psychedelic and write DECENT TUNES at the same time. "Giant Steps" isn’t just an album to tune in, turn on, and drop out; hiding inside the bliss are some of the most hit-home lyrics ever crafted.

The Orb – "Little Fluffy Clouds" – Anything you can do, I can do with a synthesizer and a couple of well-placed Rickie Lee Jones samples.

Spiritualized – "Sway" – The majestic return of Jason Spaceman brought on a brand new wave of mind-expanding music. Though it’s tough to pick out one particular track, "Sway" seems to have all the essence of the greatness that was to come over the next decade.

Super Furry Animals – "Chupacabra" – Again, a toughie to pick just one track, but I can’t resist a song about a giant bat that runs around sucking the blood from goats (as Stuart can attest.)

Beta Band – "The House Song" – I still haven’t made up my mind on the Betas, but this is decidedly the most fun thing off the critically lauded "Patty Patty Sound EP." Plus the fact that round robin harmonizing meeting gibberish rapping HAS to be a good thing.

Olivia Tremor Control – "I Have Been Floated" – The forerunners of the Elephant 6 Collective from the Athens, GA, area, the Olivia Tremor Control have done more for the "Nu Psyche" movement from their ultra-lo-fi recording studio than most bands could do in a decade’s worth of time. Occasionally annoyingly abstract and pretentious, but ALWAYS innovative, I picked "I Have Been Floated" off the new album just because every syllable in the third chorus is sung by a different person.

Apples in Stereo – "Strawberryfire" – Another solid effort from the Elephant 6 Collective, the Apples have turned a page with their new EP, and leapt headfirst into the Nu Psyche sound with ease.

Flaming Lips – "Race for the Prize" – If any band stands a shot at breaking the US market with a "Nu Psyche" song, it’s likely the Lips, who’ve already had a minor hit with "She Don’t Use Jelly." The new record is a weeeee bit more serious than that, trying (and pretty much succeeding) in bringing together about a million different elements of past, present, and potentially future psychedelia. A perfect stopping point to bring you totally up to speed.

Of course, all this music will likely fill up TWO tapes, but who’s counting (and, hey, they sell C-110’s in 2-packs anyways…)