The English band Ordinary Psycho enjoyed a short but brilliant burst of life from about 1997 to 2004.
Their first EP, “Introducing Ordinary Psycho, Special Limited Discovery CD (With Marion Crane,” offered the world only twenty minutes of music. So well crafted, though, the music continues to speak to me after innumerable listens over the past sixteen years. Enjoying its pleasures as I type this piece, the music seems as alive to me today as it did in 1998. In 2000, they released their first LP, The New Gothick LP (sometimes just The New Gothic–without the k). A year later, they released their second and final LP, Vol. II.
As I’ve mentioned in a previous post—back in September 2013—I first encountered the music through a Talk Talk discussion group sponsored by a Danish website. David Gulvin, one of the two founders of Ordinary Psycho, popped into the discussion offering the band’s introductory cd. I requested one, and, lo and behold, it showed up in the States only a week or so later. I immediately fell in love with it, and I still consider it one of my most prized cds (out of a rather unseemly large collection!).
The brain child of brothers Tony and David Gulvin, Ordinary Psycho incorporates normal rock instruments—guitar, bass, and drums—but the band also employs lots of real strings (viola and cello, predominately), piano, double bass, and various forms of percussion. In the background to many of their songs, one can hear church choirs, children’s choirs, soundbites, samples of everyday life, and movie dialogue. All of the music warrants careful listening and high-quality headphones.
In the band’s only EP, “Introducing Ordinary Psycho,” the 20-plus minutes of music tell a story revolving around Alfred Hitchcock’s masterpiece, Psycho (based originally on Robert Bloch’s novel of the same name). In what could best be described as a theatrical play or actually interesting performance art, Ordinary Psycho manages to ask the most important existential questions for any person—who am I, why am I here, what do I do—in a soundscape that flows as naturally as human creativity allows in this rather crazy world. The production on this little EP is immaculate and the flow of the music and the lyrics simply perfect. Again, though I’ve heard the story of Marion Crane told many, many times, it never fails to grab me. This is how powerful the Gulvin brothers can be in their art.
The lyrics of all three releases titillate the intellect as well as the soul. No mere lyrics of “baby, baby”, the Gulvin brothers offer some of the most serious social and cultural criticisms I’ve ever encountered since Roger Waters and before Andy Tillison. “Generation X gave away to Generation Bland” screams one of the first lines of the first song of the first album. The brothers employ lots of Catholic imagery (Gnostic, too), critiques of anything bureaucratic (corporate, governmental, or educational), and an existential embrace of some vision of life ranging from the carnival-esque and to what would be considered mildly anarchist and libertarian.
Though one can hear many of these same themes throughout the three Ordinary Psycho releases (always creatively presented and often with raw anger), no style of music predominates. Any attempt at labeling this music would fail miserably. There are straight rock, prog, punk, folk, theatrical/music, and acid elements throughout. Never does any album, song, or passage move predictably, though, and one style easily and readily blends into another. Each album makes sense, however, and each clearly and abundantly overflows with intense imagery and equally intense creativity.
Sadly, there’s very little to find about the band or its history. It’s official website, www.ordinary-psycho.co.uk is defunct. Utterly kaput. Across the web are questions from fans asking such things, repeatedly, as “Does anyone know what happened to Ordinary Psycho?” or “Does anyone know where to find” this or that Ordinary Psycho release? But, there’s no solid information out there. When I googled the band, I came up with the piece I wrote about them last September. I could quote myself, but I know as little about the band’s actual history today as I did then. So, quoting myself would only be vain.
From what I can tell (and I have received a very nice email from Tony Gulvin, but with no details about the band or why it called it quits), the band began in the mid 1990s, released the EP and the two LPs, and ended itself around 2004.
Youtube has a couple of songs available as well as a few videos of some live performances. Classic Rock (the magazine) had one article about the band in July 2000, though it, in and of itself, is a bizarre article [as a quick note—I was able to access this about a year ago, but I’m unable to access it as I’m writing this piece]. It’s clear that the writer for Classic Rock had no idea how to classify the band.
It’s also very difficult to locate any of the Ordinary Psycho releases any where, even in specialty shops on the web. But, you should try. Really, you should. You should track these releases down as quickly as you can. Make it a treasure hunt (sorry, I have small children–such enthusiastic imperatives just come into existence from time to time!)! Listening to this band is an absolute feast for the ears, the mind, and the soul. I’m sorry they only produced what they produced. But, holy schnikees, it’s so much better to produce one great thing (or three great things) than a load of trash. Really.
That Ordinary Psycho was and remains a cult band only adds to its mystery. I feel today about the Gulvin Brothers the way many in the 1970s and 1980s felt about J.D. Salinger. His absence only added to his attraction.
Still, if the Gulvin brothers re-emerged, they’d find no greater fan than yours truly.
If nothing else, Tony and David, please release all of your music through Soundcloud or Bandcamp so that the world can enjoy your sheer brilliance. In this surreal existence of sorrows, the Good Lord knows we can always use a little extra truth, beauty, and goodness.
Ordinary Psycho’s Discography
“Introducing Ordinary Psycho, Special Limited Edition Discovery CD (With Marion Crane)”
The New Gothic LP (2000)
Vol. II (2001)