Neo-psychedelia is a broad subgenre of alternative/indie rock that originated in the 1970s as an outgrowth of the British post-punk scene. Its practitioners drew from the unusual sounds of 1960s psychedelic music, either updating or copying the approaches from that era.[1] After the post-punk bands, neo-psychedelia flourished into a more widespread and international movement of artists who applied the spirit of psychedelic rock to new sounds and techniques.[2] Neo-psychedelia may also include forays into psychedelic pop, jangly guitar rock, heavily distorted free-form jams, or recording experiments.[1] A wave of British alternative rock in the early 1990s spawned the subgenres dream pop and shoegazing.[4]


For more details on this topic, see Psychedelic music.

Neo-psychedelic acts borrowed a variety of elements from 1960s psychedelic music. Some emulated the psychedelic pop of bands like the Beatles and early Pink Floyd, others adopted Byrds-influenced guitar rock, or distorted free-form jams and sonic experimentalism of the 1960s.[1] Some neo-psychedelia has been explicitly focused on drug use and experiences,[1] and like acid house of the same age, projects transitory, ephemeral, and trance-like experiences.[5] Other bands have used neo-psychedelia to accompany surreal or political lyrics.[1]

In the view of author Erik Morse: "The distinctions between British and American neo-psychedelia were best described as the differences between primitivism and primalism. The sounds of American neo-psychedelia emphasized the cryptic margins of avant-rock, incorporating evanescent textures over an immutable bassline, producing a 'heavy' metallic ambience, contra-distinct to the sing-song filigree of British psychedelia".[6]


1970s–80s: Post-punk

Main article: Post-punk

Neo-psychedelia, or as they're calling it in England, acid punk ... is one of the two strongest trends in new wave music ... While this may seem a paradox, since punk was largely a backlash against '60s drug culture, in fact acid rock in the '60s was originally a spinoff of that decade's "punk rock" scene.

Greg Shaw writing in Billboard, January 1978[7]

Psychedelic rock declined towards the end of the 1960s, as bands broke up or moved into new forms of music, including heavy metal music and progressive rock.[8] Like the psychedelic developments of the late 1960s, punk rock and new wave in the 1970s challenged the rock music establishment.[9] At the time, "new wave" was a term used interchangeably with the nascent punk rock explosion.[10] In 1978, journalist Greg Shaw categorized a subset of new wave music as "neo-psychedelia", citing Devo, "to an extent ... [its] first major indication ... [they are] the new darling of the new wave press and opion-makers, yet nothing about it is remotely 'punk'".[7] Shaw wrote that in England, neo-psychedelia was known as "acid punk", noting "self-advertised 'psychedelic punk' band, the Soft Boys, [are] being hotly pursued by several major labels."[7][nb 1]

By 1978–79, new wave was considered independent from punk and post-punk (the latter was initially known as "new musick").[13][nb 2] Author Clinton Heylin marks the year 1978 as the "true starting-point for English post-punk".[15][nb 3] Some of the scene's bands, including the Soft Boys, the Teardrop Explodes, and Echo & the Bunnymen, became major figures of neo-psychedelia.[1][nb 4]

The early 1980s Paisley Underground movement followed neo-psychedelia.[1] Originating in Los Angeles, the movement saw a number of young bands who were influenced by the psychedelia of the late 1960s and all took different elements of it. The term "Paisley Underground" was later expanded to include others from outside the city.[18]


See also: Shoegazing
My Bloody Valentine performing in 2008

In the 1980s and 1990s there were occasional mainstream acts that dabbled in neo-psychedelia, including Prince's mid-1980s work and some of Lenny Kravitz's 1990s output, but neo-psychedelia has mainly been the domain of alternative and indie rock bands.[1] The late 1980s would see the birth of shoegazing, which, among other influences, took inspiration from 1960s psychedelia.[19] Reynolds referred to this movement as "a rash of blurry, neo-psychedelic bands" in a 1992 article in The Observer.[19] With loud walls of sound, where individual instruments and even vocals were often indistinguishable, they followed the neo-psychedelic lead of bands like My Bloody Valentine (often considered as the earliest shoegaze act).[20] Major shoegaze acts included Ride, Lush, Chapterhouse, and The Boo Radleys, who enjoyed considerable attention in the UK but largely failed to break through in the US.[21]

AllMusic states: "Aside from the early-'80s Paisley Underground movement and the Elephant 6 collective of the late 1990s, most subsequent neo-psychedelia came from isolated eccentrics and revivalists, not cohesive scenes." They go on to cite what they consider some of the more prominent artists: the Church, Nick Saloman's Bevis Frond, Spacemen 3, Robyn Hitchcock, Mercury Rev, the Flaming Lips, and Super Furry Animals.[1] According to Treblezine's Jeff Telrich: "Primal Scream made [neo-psychedelia] dancefloor ready. The Flaming Lips and Spiritualized took it to orchestral realms. And Animal Collective—well, they kinda did their own thing."[2]

List of artists


  1. One American band who labelled themselves "acid punk" was Chrome.[11] The band's Helios Creed remembers that music journalists at the time considered about ten bands – including Chrome, Devo, and Pere Ubu – to be the "top ten" of acid punk: "They didn't want to call it psychedelia, it was New Wave psychedelia".[12]
  2. Contemporary writers like Jon Savage saw the experimental and radical musical deconstructions of groups like Devo, Throbbing Gristle, Siouxsie and the Banshees, the Slits, and Wire as "post-punk" maneuvers.[14]
  3. He says that the arrival of guitarist John McKay in Siouxsie and the Banshees in 1977, Magazine's album Real Life (1978), and Wire's new musical direction as factors in this starting point.[15] Journalist David Stubbs wrote that Siouxsie and the Banshee's music in 1982 had got "neo-psychedelic flourishes" with "pan-like flutes" and "treated loops".[16]
  4. Reynolds surmised that Echo & the Bunnymen's "tuneful" music could be likened to "two other leading postpunk groups to come from Liverpool during this period: Wah! Heat, with their ringing chords and endless crescendos, and the neopsychedelic outfit Teardrop Explodes, whose singer, Julian Cope, described the band's songs as 'cries of joy.'"[17] He also notes that Echo & the Bunnymen were heralded as the harbingers of "new psychedelia", he writes, "despite the fact that in those days they never ingested anything more deranging than pints of ale".[17] The band's manager, Bill Drummond, said: "All that postpunk vanguard stuff, we'd just think that was completely stupid."[17]


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 "Neo-Psychedelia". AllMusic. n.d.
  2. 1 2 3 Terich, Jeff. "10 Essential Neo-Psychedelia Albums". Treblezine.
  3. Morse 2009, p. 144.
  4. 1 2 3 Reynolds, Simon (1 December 1991), "Pop View; 'Dream-Pop' Bands Define the Times in Britain", The New York Times, The New York Times Company, retrieved 7 March 2010
  5. Smith 1997, p. 138.
  6. Morse 2009, pp. 144–145.
  7. 1 2 3 Shaw, Greg (Jan 14, 1978). "New Trends of the New Wave". Billboard. Retrieved 23 November 2015.
  8. "Psychedelic rock", Allmusic, retrieved 27 January 2011.
  9. Grushkin, Paul (1987). The Art of Rock: Posters from Presley to Punk. Abbeville Press. p. 426. ISBN 978-0-89659-584-2.
  10. Cateforis 2011, p. 9.
  11. Reynolds 2005, p. 283.
  12. Barr, Stuart (1993). "Helios Creed". Convulsion.
  13. Cateforis 2011, pp. 10, 27.
  14. Cateforis 2011, p. 26.
  15. 1 2 Heylin, Clinton (2006). Babylon's Burning: From Punk to Grunge. Penguin Books. p. 460. ISBN 0-14-102431-3..
  16. Stubbs, David (June 2004), "Siouxsie and the Banshees - A Kiss in the Dreamhouse reissue", Uncut. David Stubbs wrote that this concerns Siouxsie and the Banshees album A Kiss in the Dreamhouse.
  17. 1 2 3 Reynolds 2005.
  18. Hann, Michael (16 May 2013). "The Paisley Underground: Los Angeles's 1980s psychedelic explosion". The Guardian.
  19. 1 2 Patrick Sisson, "Vapour Trails: Revisiting Shoegaze", XLR8R no. 123, December 2008
  20. S. Reynolds, "It's the Opposite of Rock 'n' Roll", SPIN, August 2008, pp. 78–84.
  21. "Shoegaze", Allmusic, retrieved 26 January 2011.


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