Album: The Psychedelic Furs
What if, the Sex Pistols, but with a saxophone? And an unrelenting drummer who does builds instead of rolls? That was the unlikely recipe for The Psychedelic Furs, whose debut album utterly slayed me when I finally got around to getting it in early 1981, and whose second album . . . well, we’ll get to that soon enough.
Naturally, the U.S. and U.K. versions of the album differ, and naturally, in all cases I’m going with the U.S. version, because it’s the one that I lived with, and I definitely lived with this record, even if I did drop the needle a couple of minutes into the album in order to ignore the slow, near-ambient buildup to the opening track, “India,” which — once it gets going — well and truly establishes their sound.
Which was this: Vince Ely smashing this toms like he left his hi-hat and ride in the car, Tim Butler rumbling right along on the bass, while rhythm guitarist Roger Morris fuzzing out in one speaker and lead guitarist Jon Aston tumbling over himself in the other, with saxophonist Duncan Kilburn adding color.
And then there’s Richard Butler, his voice raspy like Johnny Lydon, but not angry, somehow creating the melody without hitting any notes.
You’re my love song
You’re my love song in the flowers you can have me in the flowers we will dance alone and live our useless lives
I’m sure that a lot of people heard that voice, desperately trying to find the long notes and then going directly into breathless rant mode, and were like, “welp, I’m out.” But not me, kid. For whatever reason, it all seemed like poetry to me, and his voice just sealed the deal.
And it got better. After the first invocation of the album’s mantra, “stupid,” Butler rasps Innn-deeee-ahhh-hahh! each one followed by Ely pounding his floor tom into total and utter submission without even remotely disturbing the song’s momentum.
And so it went, the guitars suddenly cranking out noise on top of noise while Butler continues his ranting and raving.
I’m American, ha ha ha
It was glorious, and about the furthest thing away from psychedelic as you could possibly imagine, but it really wasn’t punk rock, either, as producer Steve Lillywhite made it all sound absolutely massive, like an oncoming train, and did I mention that they had a fucking saxophone? To be fair, Duncan Kilburn is barely on this one, but he would sure as shit make up for that soon enough.
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