Album: Mirror Moves
. . .
It’s not a hard-and-fast rule, but in general, beware the album by a band that with a cover that features only the lead singer. Especially when their previous records always featured the full band. For example, the first Rolling Stones album to to have just Mick Jagger on the cover was Goats Head Soup, nobody’s pick for the best Rolling Stones album. Obviously, there are exceptions — there are always exceptions — but outside of (ironically) Tattoo You, I can’t think of any.
So in retrospect, the fact that Mirror Moves features only a frowning, posing Richard Butler on the cover and the other two Furs, Tim Butler and John Ashton — Vince Ely having left in the wake of Forever Now — was probably the first clue as to the album’s un-goodness. The second clue was, of course, on the inner sleeve, as well as the record label: “Produced by Keith Forsey,” who at that point was primarily known for smoothing out Billy Idol’s punk sneer with a pop sheen, and, oh yeah, Flashdance.
In retrospect, it was probably unreasonable for the little furry people — now having half of the original band — to not go through some serious changes. But Mirror Moves was a goddamn scandal. As Kirk put it in his front-page review in the KFSR ‘zine, The Dead Air Diary:
Now comes Mirror Moves, and gone is everything that was ever right about the Furs. Everything! It’s all been smoothed out by Flashdance producer Keith Forsey. Dissonance has been replaced with simplistic synth melodies and Butler’s voice has been tamed to the point where he almost sounds normal.
And 35 years later, nothing has happened to change his opinion. Recently I brought up Mirror Moves in a group chat, and he dismissed it with . “Made for MTV. Cannot be discussed as an LP.” That said, I do think that I thought “Heaven” was at least a listenable pop song — maybe if it had been done by some other band that I didn’t have such a history with, I might even have straight-out liked it as a song. I did enjoy the video.
But over the years, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to enjoy it on its own merits. And it started with an acoustic cover by a punk rock band. That punk rock band was Buffalo Tom, who stuck a live acoustic version of “Heaven” at the end of their 1990 album Birdbrain, which I bought because I saw the video for the title track on 120 Minutes.
Buffalo Tom, of course, were really more of a punk-pop band than a straight-out punk band, and their guitarist and lead singer, Bill Janovitz also wrote about music, and in fact I’m going to need to re-read both of his Rolling Stones books at some point next year. Which is why I find it quite funny that he wrote the AllMusic review of “Heaven” and on the Wikipedia page for “Heaven” that review is mentioned along with Buffalo Tom’s cover without mentioning that Janovitz was in Buffalo Tom.
In any event, these days, I can enjoy Butler’s vocals, his melody line and John Ashton’s ringing guitar — and pretty guitar solo — as things in and of themselves, and wonder what things would have been like if the whole rest of the album hadn’t been glossy crap, but I guess we’ll never know.
“Heaven” official video
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