It’s funny what gets labeled “psychedelic”, especially when music wasn’t particularly psychedelic. I’ve never heard this band before – though I’ve heard Cope’s solo music but the label “neo psychedelic” really steers one the wrong way. Yes, it’s a spectrum, but this is pretty typical 1980 British post punk with a couple of major differences: keyboards that aren’t always synthesizers, horns and the odd other sound you wouldn’t find in the music of a typical British post punk band. (There’s backmasking on a song! Quick, label it psychedelic!)
The songs are catchier than those of many contemporary post punk bands. This band is still about aesthetic for sure, but the songs are catchy enough you can imagine people being drawn in who don’t necessarily love English post punk.
Cope is a pretty good lyricist and, though I’ve never been a big fan, it’s easy to see why he’s come to have such a devoted following. (It’s also no surprise that he’s a good lyricist given his music criticism.)
But what Cope really is is a commanding performer. Even at this early stage, his voice is unmistakably his. A lot of the success of the songs is probably more attributable to his commanding and distinct voice, than their catchiness.
And yes, the instrumental palette is more varied than your average post punk record. (Though hardly as out there as some.) There are indeed touches I would describe as “psychedelic” but I’m not sure there are enough to label this music, which is very clearly British post punk, as “neo psychedelic”. That genre evolved out of various UK and US post punk bands bringing back those sounds into rock music. This was clearly one of those bands. Does that make this music psychedelic? I don’t hear it.
The album has pretty typical production for the era aside from surprise backmasking: there’s a lot of echo, for one thing. But one thing that really fails is the decision to make the actual horns sound like synthesizers. (Is it possible they’re playing both horns and synthesizers together?) Whatever the reason, those horns sound really awful 40 years later. It was a weird time…
But, this is a pretty solid British post punk record with more musical variety than most.