Most people, by which I mean 90% of the population, can’t even spell psychedelic, let alone describe it. ‘It’s just that shit that drugged out stoners listen to, right before they commit mass murder’. Nope. ‘It’s that shit that just goes on an on and on, it sounds like shit’. Nah mate. ‘Fucking Jimi Hendrix, man!’ Sort of right. Not really. Psychedelic music betrays any sort of definitive hold down label, and for that, it can be objectively viewed as one of the most unresisting and flowing musical styles of any.
This isn’t to necessarily say that it’s the best genre. Not at all. I personally prefer punk music myself. However, I feel that psychedelic music is a truly under-represented genre, and undervalued for it’s sheer technical prowess, and ability to conjure all sorts of emotion and incite action through the medium of music. It is not just the music of dimly lit parent’s basements, with pot smoke wafting between the beams of guitar and rays of crashing effects. There is more to the music than trippy cover art and long hair. Psychedelic can represent a whole stage of rebellion, and engage a display of colour and light unbeknownst to any other art form.
A few of the better known psychedelic bands: Jimi Hendrix, The Flaming Lips, Tame Impala, The Black Angels, Yeasayer, Boris, Black Moth Super Rainbow. In fact, it was the latter that inspired me to write about the importance and skill of psychedelic music. But back to basics. Pink Floyd. Pink Fucking Floyd. If you don’t know Pink Floyd, you don’t know music. These guys basically invented the concept album, the ability to use a whole fucking orchestra and still make a song rock, and to blend metaphorical themes with rock music. They expanded the shit out of their songs, creating gaps and space in parts where other bands would have rushed to fill in, and what was created was a legacy. Although by no means the best of the psych bands, Pink Floyd created something. I guarantee your parents or grandparents still go on about it today, but not about the mind-blowing shit in ‘Moth Wings’ by Pond, or the arrangements of Spiritualized’s ‘Come Together’.
This brings me back to my point. Everyone knows ‘Money‘ or ‘Another Brick in the Wall‘ and respects these songs for the great political pieces of art they are, because Pink Floyd, man, what are you, a musical simpleton? But what about the other great masterpieces of the world of psychedelic that never breached into the mainstream? This isn’t an argument of hipsters vs. mainstream, rather why the audience is ignoring such a revered art form. It’s a popular genre, it’s not like this is a debate over Somalian industrial trap-folk, or Indonesian Orchestral-thrash rap. People know about psychedelic, but it remains a dormant beast. Perhaps it poses such a frightening exploitation and disintegration of the fragile human psyche that it is only shuffled awake by the curious bystander. Does it frighten the average listener with it’s 9 minute long song time filled with crunching melodies, shifting signatures and fluid, overlapping style? Is it such a possessive force with a stigma of being labelled as ‘The shit’ by potheads, that most law-abiding citizens choose to simply stick with a pop ballad that repeats the phrase ‘ASS! ASS! ASS!’ over and over again?
Truth is, psychedelic music is fucking penetrating every aspect of popular aspect of ‘good’ music (aka nothing that makes society take a step backwards in our evolution of civilisation). Take a few incredibly famous artists like Nine Inch Nails, The Horrors, MGMT, Alt-J, Modest Mouse, The Dandy Warhols, and Radiohead. Even the straightforward-as-an-erection The Strokes have dabbled in elements of psychedelic music. None of the aforementioned bands clearly label themselves as psychedelic, however all have utilised, or thrown a nod at the genre that has influenced the sound of a particular song or album. As of now, I can only recall one band that has really shot to the top of the charts, and branded themselves as psychedelic, which would be Django Django, and fuck are they great.
So, what is psychedelic music? That’s what the title of this extremely shitty essay promised, however, psychedelic is less about doing 30 hits of acid and playing guitar, and more about incorporating the elements of a freeing and emotive music into a beautiful arrangement of music, equal parts Beethoven’s 5th Symphony and Jimi Hendrix’s ‘All Along the Watchtower’. Psyschedelic has no definitive label nor answer, and thus can execute a perfect range of harmony and awesome power, or pure, unadulterated expression of the artists’ desire. Case in point: Black Moth Super Rainbow: Born on a Day The Sun Didn’t Rise. Happy music about depressing shit, tied together with symphonied synths, warped effects, and a falsetto. Game, set, match, psychedelic music. Beats the shit out of Nicki Minaj any day.