1980, Music

The Psychedelic Furs (1980)

One has to think that the band name is a jab at old people, whether or not you want to categorize this music as neo-psychedelia. (And people categorize it as such? I find that very strange. Like, how?) Anyone who was really into psychedelic music in the late ’60s would have been pretty put out by how aggressively post punk this record is. So I like the band name.

As I said, the sound is pretty aggressively post punk of 1980 – there’s a pretty strong Joy Division influence in addition to the usual suspects (’70s British art rock particularly). There’s also a slight tinge of jangle, not found in a lot of these other bands who were debuting either in ’79 or ’80. Of course the biggest difference is that saxophone – off the top of my head, the only other post punk band of the era that I can think of which had a sax is the Birthday Party, and that was only very rarely. The saxophone does a good job of distinguishing this band from the others because, without it, I’m not sure they would be very distinct.

However, one place where they do seem to stand out is in the melody realm. Early post punk is, um, not known for its catchy songs, and this record has more than its share (given the context). In fact, Butler’s strange voice  and the band’s moody/gothy aesthetic really work hard to make the songs seem less catchy, as a few of these could easily have become hits in different clothes (and with a more charismatic singer).

The influences are a little too much on the sleeve for me to acclaim this as an absolute classic. I’m pretty convinced that without the saxophone I would find it fairly derivative of the early post punk classics. And at one point Butler sounds way too much like David Bowie (“Sister Europe”), despite his (Butler’s) very distinct delivery.

But, on the whole, it’s pretty damn good. And it’s a good entry point for people who want to get into British post punk but who are a little put off by the whole aesthetic-over-hooks thing.


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