Scritti Politti – Cupid & Psyche ’85

Originally Released June 10th 1985. Review originally published April 1st 2007.

Depending on the extent to which you allow cynicism to colour your point of view, Cupid & Psyche represented either one of the finest soul-pop albums of the decade, or a futile exercise by Scritti frontman Green Gartside in mining the gullibility of the world’s record buying public. Was this merely pop as a meaningless science project with no more merit than pulling the legs off a hapless spider? The colourful history of Scritti’s agent provocateur and his all conquering intellect hinted at a little bit of both. The end result of a three year gestative period since the inconsistent Songs To Remember and packed to the rafters with studio trickery and buffed-to-a-shine production, this collection of uber bluest eyed soul temporarily filled the pop vacuum left by the likes of Spandau Ballet and Duran Duran as they sought to stretch their appeal to older, album buying audiences.

Opening with the lilting, softer than feathers Caucasian reggae of The Word Girl, Gartside wasted no time in letting the world know that his single minded vision was of an album as synthetically expansive as any other from a decade which riffed on big technology and self aggrandisement, a precision attempt to surpass The Human League’s Dare for processed humanity. With the protean frontman taking care of sequencing and arrangements in an era where most musicians regarded mixing engineers and producers as other worldly shaman, the pristine results set the tone for the mechanisation of funk and soul and in the eighties; Don’t Work That Hard and Hypnotize were overstated tech cousins of EW&F, the pneumatic Lover To Fall neatly encapsulated the record’s unique and symbolic formula of complex lyrical verbiage and glossy, shallow emotions whilst A Little Knowledge pushed syrupy balladry to just the right side of good taste. In it’s lazier moments veering towards the ball-less excesses of Phil Collins, Gartside though assiduously served up a brace of indisputable bona fide modern soul classics, the totem name checking Wood Beez and the prancing Absolute, both hook laden counterpoints to the synthetic chicanery around them, propelled by elastic programmed bass, gilded by the singers’ extensively airbrushed and impossibly breathy vocals and frissons of incongruous guitar. Not the timeless, perfect journey it was designed to be but in many senses groundbreaking, on it’s release a few weeks after the end of the year long miner’s strike which had poisoned the country’s soul it seemed briefly like the third way might be found, that love might impossibly prevail, and the romantics amongst us believed just as naively that Cupid & Psyche was a part of that fleeting vision.

 

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