This is my first Furs record so I cannot comment on whether or not it’s some kind of sell out (doesn’t sound like it!) or some kind of compromise of their earlier sound, which I have never heard. I can comment on the music and try to comment on the context, as I am an avid British post punk listener.
I can’t say I love the record; I don’t love the songs and Butler’s voice is not my favourite. I actually find it kind of hilarious that this is viewed as some kind of beginning of a steep decline given that it is accessible, but hardly insanely accessible compared to some of the music former post-punk bands were making at the same time. It’s chart success in the UK and some other countries kind of surprises me, honestly. This criticism kind of reminds me of the insane criticisms directed at American alternative rock bands in the early 90s who had the audacity to sign with major labels and/or write songs with hooks. Speaking of Alternative music…
This record is classified as “New Wave” on Rym but I don’t hear New Wave at all; I hear a poppier version of post punk combined with some other sounds and that, as I understand it, is pretty much the definition of Alternative rock in the 1980s. I know a whole lot about the evolution of Alternative in the US, as I have listened to and continue to listen to too much of that music.I know far less about the UK equivalent. I know the narrative is often portrayed in this light: “post punk bands got poppier and poppier until post punk died and synthpop took over, until The Smiths brought guitars back and saved everyone.” This record certainly poses problems for that narrative, as it feels to my ears like a pretty vital step between angular, dissonant, willfully difficult post punk and the punk-influenced more conventional rock music of Alternative Rock. Maybe the Furs went poppier and synthier later and so became part of the thing that Alternative Rock railed against but, to my ears, this record sounds like one of the earliest examples of British Alternative Rock.
And because of that, even though I can’t say I love it, I have to respect it probably more than my current rating suggests.