All-Time Albums: #27


SCRITTI POLITTI Cupid & Psyche 85

1 The Word Girl 4:24 (UK single, #6)
2 Small Talk 3:39
Absolute 4:25 (UK single, #17)
4 A Little Knowledge 5:01
Don’t Work That Hard 3:59
6 Perfect Way 4:43 (UK single, #48)
7 Lover To Fall 4:12
Wood Beez (Pray Like Aretha Franklin) 4:48 (UK single, #10)
9 Hypnotize 3:34 (UK single, #68)

Let’s see how long I can last without mentioning sweetness…or chocolate…or Arif Mardin. Oops.

One wonders how things might have turned out had Green/Virgin records procrastinated much longer and Cupid & Psyche not been released just before Live Aid in the summer of 1985. That June saw some other pretty seminal, intelligent pop albums also emerge; Prefab Sprout’s Steve McQueen and Talking Heads’ Little Creatures chief amongst them. Scritti got their chart moment in the sun, with a Top 5 debut, but post-Live Aid, and no doubt due to 4 singles having already been taken from it, sales dropped off quite rapidly. Not even a nifty single remix of Perfect Way could crack the Top 40 (it did, however, take them to the brink of the US Top 10 a few months later).

The album era effectively lasted about 18 months, from when Wood Beez entered the Top 100 in March 1984 to the dying embers of Perfect way’s doomed residency in the lower reaches of the Top 75. At a time when most campaigns were trailed by only one, or maybe two, singles, and acts would issue new albums every year or so, the regular 3-year gaps between Scritti records made them stand out from the majority of the pop crowd.

It’s true that arguably the trio of finest songs were the ones produced by Arif Mardin, and for all the endeavours of David Gamson, Fred Maher and Green to bring the rest of the album up to the same lofty standards you can hear the difference, but even so the quality never drops. The sequencing is a bit off, to these ears, as Hypnotize makes for an odd closing track and Wood Beez gets buried towards the end of Side 2 instead of being the main attraction.

Essentially, what Scritti Politti represented was something very unique in a variety of ways; Green’s helium-candy vocals, the articulate and ever-so-slightly pretentious lyrical conceits and unashamed wordplay, the stunning sleeve artwork for every single and the album itself; they had an identity which stood apart from the rest and yet they fitted seamlessly into the Smash Hits world.

At least, they did before everything became about authenticity, good causes and whether you could work a stadium crowd or not.

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