Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

The Psychedelic Furs

Released 1980 on CBS
Reviewed by Le Samourai, 15/07/2001ce

1980 must’ve been a killer year for debut albums. The Psychedelic Furs’ self-titled 1980 debut itself is a juggernaut of moody intensity. I have no clue what the A & R people at CBS were on when they signed this band (considering their biggest selling act at the time was REO Speedwagon) but I am sure glad they did. Lead Singer/Lyricist Richard Butler’s worldview can best be described in one word:shtupid. Not “stupid” but “shtupid.” Shtupid people, shtupid love and shtupid times to live in. All the while guitarists John Ashton and Roger Morris, bassist Tim Butler and drummer Vince Ely become the Post Punk musical steamroller of your dreams while saxophonist Duncan Kilburn alternates between
auditioning for the The Stooges Funhouse and Roxy Music’s first album sessions. Although I can’t imagine Iggy yellin’ “BLOOOOOOOWWWWWWW DUNCANNNNNNN!” Kilburn does just that and then

And wouldn’t you just know it? The Furs get top notch Post Punk production help from that Mr. “All Over The Place And A Huge Snare Drum” Steve Lillywhite AND sublime, dry, mood master Martin Hannett along with glam rock vet Ian Taylor and executive producer Howard Thompson. Instead of making the album more patchy and spotty, all 4 producers make the record more tight and cohesive. Lillywhite only produces 5 songs, Hannett gets 2 while
Thompson & Taylor (with the Furs) get 3 and the insanity that is The Psychedelic Furs first album still holds together.

It opens with “India” Richard Butler’s ode to (or should I say “dis of”?) the country of India. What did India ever do to Butler? I still think this song is a veiled metaphor for England at the time. No matter, Butler is just plain furious here. “This is shtupid, I object” he rails on at the end and the bands burns on behind him. What an opening! Then oddly enough, it stops to get more reflective with a song called “Sister Europe.” People often despair over what happened to Roxy Music after Brian Eno left but if Bryan Ferry could’ve just embraced the darkness a little more perhaps he might’ve come up with something as surreal
and elegantly somber as “Sister Europe.” Here Butler deals with shtupid people at a shtupid party where the radio plays Charles Aznavour (yep, that’s right) “shtupidly.” Social commentary was never this bizarre or classy. Lillywhite inflates the drum kit on
“Europe” to Spector-sized proportions as the band churns on righteously.

“Susan’s Strange” is almost like Butler at a Karaoke
bar as he cuts through another reflective yet Roxy/Bowie-esque gem (as handled with care by Hannett) with his Sha La La’s barely in tune. “Fall” is another highlight on Lillywhite’s resume. Here the Furs get their stomp on as Butler contemplates domestic bliss in suburbia and all I can say here is DO NOT MISS hearing "Fall." “We Love You” is one hell of an art school protest tune as Butler
simply lists people, places and things he loves (or is that
“loathes”? it's hard to tell here) over a hot, maniacal Dolls/Stooges/Pistols/Heartbreakers riff amalgam (produced con brio by Thompson & Taylor with The Furs.)
“Soap Commercial” is another Hannett highlight as Butler carves up oppressive TV and Radio’s relationship with an oppressive society. Next comes “Imitation Of Christ” which is one of the true highlights on The Furs debut (and another notch on Lillywhite’s belt.) An elegant, elegiac yet trashy funeral march any Goth band would kill for, Butler takes on religion with his corrosive croon and the band just howls on behind him like the epic anthem it was meant to be. “Pulse” is another crazed Thompson/Taylor/Furs racket dedicated to all stupid, I mean shtupid people everywhere. On “Wedding Song” Lillywhite turns the drum kit into a pulverizing machine drill as Butler rasps and later raps on about disfunctional relationships. The record ends with “Flowers” yet another Thompson/Taylor/Furs production blast as Butler graphically depicts a drug addict’s self-brutalization. Yow!

They’d later make their 2nd LP totally with Lillywhite which
would prove to be their best ever and a Post-Punk classic in its own right, Talk Talk Talk (1981 CBS.) Butler’s bile and the band’s bite are so incredibly ferocious here that it’s even more of a shock that John Hughes would name an extremely popular teen film after one of their songs (“Pretty In Pink”) and that The Furs would later try to court that teen audience with depressing results later. Either way, I bet this album gave the A & R at CBS some nightmares. Good for them.

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