Felt - Forever Breathes The Lonely Word

by Jeff Penczak Rating:10 Release Date:2018-09-21
Felt - Forever Breathes The Lonely Word
Felt - Forever Breathes The Lonely Word

I’ve got to hand it to Lawrence, he dreams up the best album titles ever! After confusing the shit out of his new bosses at Creation (Alan McGee must’ve shit himself when his new charges turned in their first album – a 20 minute collection of bossa nova, cha cha lounge instrumentals!), all parties were able to breathe easier three months later when the band regained their senses and recorded one of the shining lights in a brilliant, yet eclectic discography. It also marked the beginning of Tony Willé’s brief tenure as second guitarist, replacing Lawrence’s longtime mate and guitar foil Maurice Deebank.

Things get off to a rousing start with Martin Duffy’s barrelhouse organ, pushing ‘Rain of Crystal Spires’ through its giddy, roly-poly paces. Lawrence is in full-on Lou Reed vocal form, a phase that will last for the next few albums. The guitar sound on this album is the best it’s ever been, with big phat glistening chords chiming thoughout ‘Down But Not Yet Out’, with Duffy once again doing yeoman work on his organ (fills wink)  and Lawrence’s taunting vocal inflections at their vitriolic best.

The sentimental, nostalgically-tinged ‘September Lady’ is one of Lawrence’s most melancholic tunes – a downright “tears on my guitar” moment. A rushed ‘Grey Streets’ is the album’s lone weak link, a helter-skelter arrangement suggesting the band were overdo for a bathroom break. A hard-to-follow verbose lyric adds to the Chinese fire drill vibe – I remember I couldn’t wait to flip the album over when I first bought it over 30 years ago. Luckily, we have skip buttons on our CD players today!

However, all is certainly rectified immediately upon exposure to one of the cream creations in the entire Felt oeuvre, ‘All the People I Like Are Those That Are Dead’, an incredibly poignant lyrical eulogy to absent friends (“I’ve been around this town/And I’ve seen what God has done”) and one of the half dozen greatest tracks Lawrence has ever written. (Another one comes up in a few minutes!) The midpoint where the musical backing stutters to a pindrop silence for Lawrence to repeat the chorus a capella is one of the most bone-chilling moments in his and their career. Simply brilliant.

‘Gather Up Your Wings and Fly’ is another stutter step, a familiar melody we feel we’ve just heard grafted on to another forlorn, frustrated lyric that’s too easy not to escape feeling must be another in Lawrence’s series of kiss offs to the departed Deebank. ‘Wave Crashed On Rocks’ is yet another melancholic entry, another stab at Deebank(?) or perhaps a rejoinder to fans who feared the band were over once Deebank left (or both): “People are crying/What are we gonna do; People are crying/I don’t care about them, I care about you”. Like the titular wave crashing on rocks, the past is over and it is time to move on.

The albums ends on the previously alluded to brilliance of ‘Hours of Darkness Have Changed My Mind’ (once again, extra points for these brilliantly poetic titles). I’ve been listening to this track for over 30 years and I still get goosepimples singing along to the swaying chorus, imagining an O2-filled arena raising outstretched, lighter-waving arms, succumbing to Lawrence’s beckoning “You sing it now”.

The reissue adds a bonus single from 1985, coupling a crisper, albeit shorter version of ‘Cathedral’ (originally on their Crumbling The Antiseptic Beauty debut) with their biggest hit, the Liz Fraser-accompanied ‘Primitive Painters’, originally released on Ignite The Seven Cannons. The two voices entangle each other like smoke rings circling to the rafters in a crowded nightclub, although they do eventually feel like they’re fighting over the microphone smile .

Despite a few hiccups, this remained the zenith of the Felt catalogue until their swan song, more on which later this week. For now, enjoy one of the best bands of the 80s at the peak of their powers. This was the first Felt album I bought and it immediately had me scrambling to backfill my Felt discography. Newbies may want to follow in my footsteps if this is also your first exposure to Lawrence and his many charms.

 

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