What does it sound like?:
Here comes the next and final batch of Felt reissues – five more from them if you will. I’ve actually not heard the last 4 albums so here goes.
If you’ve heard the band, you know the drill by now. Drums buried low in the mix, simple twinkling guitar riffs, Martin Duffy’s deft organ work and Lawrence’s half-spoken, wayward vocal. There’s vague hints of Modern Lovers, The Velvets and perhaps a loose stab at being a sort of Brummie Bedsit Dylan and the Band; but really the sound and style is so idiosyncratic it can only be Lawrence and Felt (bar one exception).
‘Forever Breathes the Lonely Word’ from 1986, features ace Organist Martin Duffy (later of Primal Scream) as it’s cover star and it’s his playing that is the keynote of later Felt stuff – ace guitarist Maurice Deebank having departed. It’s a bit a cracker this one, full of sparkly pop hooks and might be a good entry point for the newcomer. Think a soft-focus Teenage Fanclub.
There’s no huge stylistic shift on ‘Poem of the River’ but this sounds more stripped back and lo-fi. It starts with the excellent opening couplet “I will be the first person in history to die of Boredom” over super minimal guitar scratching in the fine but far too short ‘Declaration’. Worth the admission for the languid ‘Riding on the Equator’ which stretches out to 9 minutes of unrelenting gentle jangle.
‘The Pictorial Jackson Review’ is rather slight, it’d blow over in a light breeze.
Lawrence likes to tinker with his track listings and has decided to edit out two instrumental tracks credited to Martin Duffy with a couple of unreleased tunes so you’ll need to track down the original if you want to hear those.
‘Train Above the City’ is a complete oddity. It doesn’t feature Lawrence at all, and is entirely the work of Duffy and long time Felt Drummer Gary Ainge on Drums and Vibes laying down some light, jazzy instrumentals with Lawrence providing only the song titles. It’s pleasant enough- a sort of strange interlude before the final album. Lord knows what the thinking was behind it, but Lawrence has seen fit to remaster and reissue it with the rest so I guess he stands by it as a Felt album. He later declared he’d always intended to release 10 singles and 10 albums in 10 years so maybe this was his own contractual obligation. You can bet your life that someone, somewhere thinks this is the best Felt album.
‘Me and and A Monkey on the Moon’ ends the set and thankfully Lawrence is back in his own band; and there’s a new instrument – Slide guitar (by who else but B.J. Cole). Throb from Primal Scream guests on Bass and interestingly the producer is the late Adrian Borland from The Sound. This is much rhythmically looser than the earlier records, more upfront sounding with a lot more stylistic deviation than you’ll hear in most of the 10 albums and with a few nods to his later work as Denim like the synth noodles and autobiographical lyrics on ‘Mobile Shack’. ‘New Day Dawning’ even has a coda where Felt properly rock out. It’s a good’un this – it might well be the ‘lost classic’ of the the Felt catalogue and a nice way to end the story.
What does it all *mean*?
Lawrence says: “We were trying to do a new kind of rock that was anti-macho and very dream-like. It was all about mystery and dream states, really”
All in all, rich and strange stuff but like all good music Felt takes a while to live with and settle in with. Lawrence stretches to the limit of his abilities and budget at all times, and you have to do a bit of mental work to imagine what he had in his head. Pop thrill seekers might prefer his 90s work as Denim or his more recent work as Go Kart Mozart which is kind of Sleaford Mods if they were signed to RAK or Bell records in the mid 70s.
These are all out on Vinyl of course – or you can go for the pricey deluxe CD versions with a 7″, tacky badge and reproduction flyers in a signed box (25 quid a pop).
Goes well with…
Might suit people who like…
Teenage Fanclub, Velvet Underground, Primal Scream, C86, Modern Lovers, Televison Real Estate, Off-kilter