The Psychedelic Furs
‘Made Of Rain’
Back in the day, amidst the torrent of bands and albums that were floating around at the beginning of the 80s, opinions were very often divided. With the lid entirely lifted from the box marked ‘experimentation’, people sat in darkened rooms debating the merits of whichever new album releases were making waves at any particular moment. As you might expect this led to some interesting and occasionally heated discussions, as bands that have since become acknowledged as progenitors of what a lot of music fans listen to today made their presence known for the first time. And while some were lauded and others dismissed, the Psychedelic Furs were one group of musicians that most people seemed to agree were all round acceptable, whom you could put on the stereo without causing dissent from the corners of those darkened rooms.
The Furs self titled debut album 1980
Edgy yet accessible, with vocals that resembled Johnny Rotten after singing lessons and saxophone breaks that recalled Roxy Music in some form, everybody seemed to actually like the Furs, from teenage singles buyers to the older crowd whose listening habits hadn’t changed much since about 1975. And as time progressed, the Furs audience grew, they proved greatly successful in the US and spent much of the second part of the 80s there, playing massive stadium tours and taking their undiluted north London cynicism to the west coast and to south Dakota, among other places.
The Furs opt for a flexi-disc cover for their single Dumb Waiters 1983
‘Made Of Rain’ is the Furs’s first studio album since 1991’s ‘World Outside’, and for all that they reformed in about 2000 it seems like slightly too long a wait. Actual generations of music listeners have come and gone in three decades, and while ‘Pretty In Pink’ can still be heard on the oldies channels, who really remembers them today? Probably quite a lot of people, although they could maybe use a bit of prompting. With their musical abilities finely honed after numerous live shows and with Richard Butler’s vocals fully intact, they might wish that they had released this album a bit sooner.
Opening track ‘The Boy Who Invented Rock ‘n ‘Roll’ is vintage Furs and no mistake, the guitars and drums kick in without warning, Butler’s trademark invective is in full flight and a saxophone flails around in the background. ‘I’m the boy’, snarls Butler with characteristic lack of humility, ‘who invented rock ‘n’ roll’ and it all sounds more than plausible. Four minutes in and you might find yourself delving into your vinyl collection for those battered copies of their 80s albums that you never quite got round to getting rid of, indeed most of the songs on ‘Made Of Rain’ would slide comfortably in amongst their earlier work.
Much of the rest of the rest of the album takes a less frenetic pace than the opener, at least relatively. ‘Don’t Believe’ captures the big stage grandeur of their mid 80s sound, and while purists might suggest that the reverberating production is slightly overdone, the Furs vacated that back room in Camden quite a long time ago, leaving the air of claustrophobia that hung over ‘Talk Talk Talk’ well behind them. The sound of ‘Made Of Rain’ is an expansive one with no corner of the studio left empty. Third track ‘You’ll Be Mine’ is a driving guitar led number, a clarinet interjects between the thunderous drumming and crashing six string chordage and at almost five minutes the song develops away from its acoustic beginnings into a proper phones in the air anthem. ‘Come All Ye Faithful’ begins with a nod to Depeche Mode in its electronic intro, its skewed rhythm is sustained when the rest of the instruments appear, and it’s the only track that doesn’t appear to sound entirely like the Furs themselves.
The track that seems most reminiscent of their 80s work is 8th track ‘No One’, which seems like the least complicated song in its arrangement while Butler’s lyric is as vitriolic as anything he’s ever written : ‘who’s on the telephone, why no one / babel or babylon, for no one’. Words directed at an unseen adversary were and are a recurring motif in the Furs music, and they remain as unnerving, lucid and indeed virulent as ever.
A few people, this reviewer included, would have doubtlessly preferred that they had released at least one other album in the 29 years between ‘Made Of Rain’ and its predecessor, although if there’s one thing that anyone familiar with them should appreciate it’s that the Psychedelic Furs have always portrayed themselves as idiosyncratic, even mysterious. Whatever the reasons, they are quite prepared to wrong foot their audience yet again, and ‘Maid Of Rain’ is a monument to both their past and our present.