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Thursday, 20 September 2018
The Psychedelic Furs - The Psychedelic Furs (1980)
Released March 1980
This is a leading example of a "post punk" album - full of influences from David Bowie's late seventies work and German "Krautrock" bands Neu! and Kraftwerk in places with a little bit of early Roxy Music thrown in. Funnily enough, vocalist Richard Butler's gruff, sneering tones were very punk as opposed to "new romantic" haughty. The latter style hadn't really taken off yet, so a funky PIL-esque tone was still de rigeur. The album was produced by Steve Lilywhite, who went on to produce U2. You can see that this influenced those early U2 albums in places.
The opener, "India" starts with about two minutes of background electronic bleeps and noises before kicking into a post punk rocker with the vocals I spoke of earlier to the fore. "Sister Europe" has a deep, sonorous saxophone sound straight off either the first Roxy Music album or David Bowie's "Low" and "Heroes" instrumentals. It is a marvellously brooding, atmospheric track, although its debt to Bowie's material is huge. "Imitation Of Christ" has an appealing saxophone intro. The Furs were unusual amongst their peers in their use of the saxophone. Duncan Kilburn was the player of it here.
"Fall" stars with an upbeat, almost Northern Soul-style thumping beat before the post punk vocals and searing guitar licks take over. "Pulse" is one of the punkier tracks on the album, a frenetic drum, guitar and saxophone-driven X-Ray Spex type of song, particularly in the screaming saxophone breaks. "We Love You" has Butler name-checking various people he is in love with - Sophia Loren, Frankie Sinatra and Diana Ross & The Supremes among others in full-on John Lydon leering style.
That Bowie sound is back on the beguiling, haunting "The Wedding Song", with its PIL meets Joy Division feel and, notably, a proto-rap bit on the vocals half way through. It has a superb big, rumbling bass sound on it too plus some funky guitar at the end. "Blacks/Radio" suffers from a dense, indistinct sound as does the sonic assault of the Velvet Underground-ish "Flowers". A pity as they are potentially better tracks than they sound. The bonus "demo" version of "Flowers" is actually much better, one of the best cuts on the album.
The bonus track, "Susan's Strange" is mysterious and insistent with great guitars, an early Roxy Music wailing saxophone underpinning it and a new romantic "sha-la-la" chorus. "Soap Commercial" is a good one too. Very post punk. Their take on "Mack The Knife" is excellent, totally unrecognisable.
The sound is a tad muffled (comparatively) on the album, however. It could do with another remastering.