Scritti Politti had a unique beginning. Much like New Order, the group began as a Post-Punk band except Scritti Politti had an Left-Wing political tone to their music. By the time Cupid & Psyche 85 was released, the sound of Scritti Politti was vastly different. Lead singer Green Gartside abandoned his political beliefs and wanted to go in a more commercial direction. Of course, his band mates didn’t agree and Gartside carried on the band by himself. Gartside also started to get into hip-hop music around this time and moved to New York City. It was there that this album came to fruition. Co-produced by the legendary Arif Mardin, Cupid & Psyche 85 reminds me of much of the music today. It is very electronic based in 2016 with the rise of EDM but within that synthy shine are some well written songs with hooks. The Chainsmokers’ song Closer immediately comes to mind. That is probably why I couldn’t relate to a lot of Prefab Sprout’s Steve McQueen. There didn’t seem to be any pop sensibilities on that album other than on When Love Breaks Down. Paddy McAloon rambled on and didn’t seem to use the chorus or hooks on many of that album’s tracks. On Cupid & Psyche 85, Gartside along with new band members David Gamson and Fred Maher, created a commercial friendly sound with some lyrical content from Gartside that was still more intellectual than pop music would allow. The best part was that they pulled it off successfully!! I was moving and dancing along with this album from the first note!! The parallels with current pop music are more than just the songs. Turns out that David Gamson has worked with Kesha, Kelly Clarkson, Jessie J and Adam Lambert. Their music has a similar quality to Scritti Politti’s tracks on Cupid and Psyche 85. Gamson also brought the funk influence and if you listen closely, you can hear a bit of Chic and Parliament-Funkadelic’s sounds throughout Cupid and Psyche 85. The album’s centerpiece is their biggest US hit, Perfect Way. In my opinion, it’s the quintessential mid 80’s synth track. Gartside’s vocals are smooth and yet Gamson’s synth work is miles above their contemporaries. It is what makes the band stand out. They knew how to make catchy, accessible songs and yet there is some mystery, some deeper element. It is brilliant and I can’t help but wonder why this group was never able to capture the magic again.
Other highlights include: The Word Girl, Small Talk, Absolute, A Little Knowledge, Lover to Fall and Wood Beez (Pray Like Aretha Franklin).
Overall, I give Cupid & Psyche 85, 4.5 out of 5.
Next: Atomizer by Big Black