Here is a completely missed record that is so lushly produced with such soaring tunes and carefully painted lyrics you will wonder how you ever missed it. I did but then again I had four youngsters and had only just returned from abroad and probably didn’t notice very much. I bought this record probably about 4 years ago from the local library ex loan CD sale for another solitary pound. What an extraordinary investment that turned out to be.
I had always rated the excellent Psychedelic Furs and thought that it might be OK but really had no idea but, hey, a tight git like me always loves a bargain. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. The Psychedelic Furs were one of ‘my’ bands in the late seventies early eighties and parts of those first two albums still make me tingle. Richard Butler was their singer and the band were quite successful throughout the eighties. He has lived in New York for years is a well respected artist. This was his only album and is really a collaboration with multi instrumentalist Jon Carin who is involved in lots of Pink Floyds work
I gave it a quick listen and it didn’t really properly register and so it sat of the shelf for another year at ‘Scrutinzer Towers’ and then I gave it another listen. It very quickly ascended to repeat in the car and was in there for months and generally used as an enthusiastic singalong as I soon knew all the words but curiously not how to get to all the high notes. It is now one of my favourite albums of the noughties and one that I seem not be able to tire of. There aren’t many records that do that.
The record was made either during or just after the pair of them lost their fathers and Butler’s marriage fell apart. The tunes maybe gorgeous but the lyrics are distinctly grim at times. A huge feeling of loss, the passing of time, bitterness and break-up punctuates his intricate lyrical pictures. Jon Carin appears to me an equal partner in this alliance. He paints as enthusiastically as Butler does complementing him with minimalist instrumentation using very sophisticated electronic equipment mostly plus a plain old acoustic guitar. He really is a fantastic arranger. ‘Last Monkey’ kind of turns into his instrumental track using his careful instrumentation and layered Butler voice tracks.
Most of tracks however put Richard Butlers voice way up front which really demonstrates his range more than anything that he ever sung with the Furs. It so suits him too. In this record he cant hide behind the rock band. The melodies are so strong in this record and he presents them beautifully. There are a fair share of thumping great stadium chords too but not to the extent that it feels ‘stadium’. This time it’s personal, really personal.
In ‘California’ he checks an old reference as he asks ‘make me a drink Caroline’ whilst he sings of advancing oceans, environmentalism and in passing the passing of his father ‘When the world is an old man with no time for the future’. In ‘Breathe’ (oddly also the title of an entirely different Pink Floyd track that Carin plays regularly) Butler also makes similar references ‘When you wake up in the morning of the last day in the world’ Heck! This really hurt!
On ‘Satellites’ he says that ‘Annie says I’m not the man I used to be’ and during the mighty ‘Broken Aeroplanes’ he highlights that he hears ‘every tick that passes’. On the desperate ‘Nothing’s Wrong’ he whispers to his lover to relax and lay down eventually yelling ‘shut up and let me sleep’ Wow. Richard is heartbroken. Annie was his wife and I believe was moving on at this point and Richard is plainly alone and watching the clock. Just as well he has the therapy the this album must have been
‘Milk’ really shows his range as its never been seen and the layering and arrangement of this track shows uncommon depth for just two people. It’s plain the all those years of New York living hasn’t kicked his Englishness into touch. His pronunciation is as Anglo as ever
As well as a bitter palette he also uses rather beautiful imagery too using his artists skills to maximum effect on Second to Second ‘ We follow the stars and the movement of insects, the arc of the sun and the turn of the tides’. Mmmmm nice.
By the end of the record there are two tracks which appear to be stitched together so well I tend not to view them separately. For all the top class tunes on this record this end piece tops the lot. Sentimental Airlines is ridiculously tear jerking as he anticipates the end of his marriage ‘that last straw before I crack’. The soaring chorus see’s him throw his voice higher than the sun. The track builds and builds and crescendo’s into a single synth note that streams into Maybe Someday just when you think he must have used up all the emotional chords and words possible you can see him sitting alone staring out ‘sulking silent sitting in the corner….half the time you’ll see me staring at the sky….maybe someday…tear it all down’ and after that, an extraordinary pause and in come the lushest synth chords to cushion his words out to his final ‘maybe someday’
Please give this largely unknown album a spin. It is truly epic on a microscopic scale.
Here is the end piece. The poster of this plainly thinks these are inseparable too.