Following the success of Insomnia Theatre and Unveiling the Secret, Psyche turned to a classic wave sound on their third and most polished album, Mystery Hotel. While the industrial influence heard on earlier material is less pronounced, Mystery Hotel is in many ways the darkest Psyche album. The demons are alive on tracks like Wake the Flood Unconscious, Nocturnal Passenger and The Outsider, and even poppier numbers like Eternal and Insatiable are, at their core, still melancholia at its finest.
But the tone of this record, and the key to its brilliant longevity, is the blues influence which is sometimes hidden but sometimes, like on the opener Make No Mistake, out in the open as if to say 'yeah we do blues and new wave so what.' When singer Darrin Huss croons HA HA HA HO, he's not just echoing the synthline; he's challenging the whole synthpop construction. Uncivilized, inspired by the brother's fervent joy of ZZ Top, captures this tension perfectly.
On Mystery Hotel, Psyche take Soft Cell and The Doors, and roll them into one crazy insomniac beast. And it works so well you don't mind being one of the insomniacs yourself: Insatiable is an earworm if there ever was one, and Wake the Flood Unconscious is just about the slickest under-three-minutes hangover track you've ever heard. And then there's the brooding, dense marshland that is The Outsider, a synthpop track that borders on psychedelia and shimmers with a brilliance that is possibly unmatched in the Psyche catalogue.
Psyche began as two brothers: Stephen, the shy programmer, stoically standing behind his Korg, and Darrin, the flamboyant cover boy with a penchant for melancholy. Throughout the '80s, these two Canadians forged ahead in the relatively uncharted territory of electronic music. Their journey is captured for the first time on their career-retrospective DVD, "Imaginary Life".
Showcasing Psyche experimenting with everything from the kaleidoscope visuals of "Maggots" to the 1970s horror film-inspired "I'm a Gentleman". With gorgeously shot black and white dissolves "Eternal" finds Psyche at their creative zenith, as a band who has finally come into their own in the video medium. "Misery" is the first song/video without Stephen and doesn't feature a centrally placed Darrin, instead going with a more socio-political bent.
The remainder of "Imaginary Life" is a series of live footage from 1989 through the present that goes from the home-movie intimacy of "Prisoner of Desire", to 1996's "Love is a Winter", which displays the band's maturing lyrics and stage presence, not to mention Darrin's more-than-passing similarity to Marc Almond. What is striking about this collection is how in their twenty-plus year history, Psyche has remained almost identical to their original construction.
Their refusal to resort to clichéd imagery, may help explain why Psyche never enjoyed the commercial success in the US as that of their peers. Imaginary Life gives a alluring glimpse into the DIY spirit that began with two brothers, who went on to become one of synth pop's most durable bands.