Hindsight is indeed 20/20 when one thinks of the post-punk era (1980-82), and the Psychedelic Furs might well come to mind as a band that defines that period. They ascended from a raw, surly, punk-inspired proto-goth band to new wave pop stars on both sides of the Atlantic and became a permanent entry in our Pop Culture Handbook when director John Hughes used "Pretty in Pink" in his youth-angst movie of the same name. Now their first three albums have been remastered and rereleased with bonus tracks.
Their debut, The Psychedelic Furs, had the seeds of goth and art-punk: darkness, disdain, piss, and vinegar. Richard Butler comes on like a composite of Bob Dylan, David Bowie, and Johnny Rotten, using the word "stupid" five or six times during the course of the album. At this point, the band was still basic yet striving for sophistication (best illustrated by its use of saxophone for texture rather than the usual breakneck-speed guitar approach).
Talk Talk Talk is arguably the band's best album, with Butler fully integrating his influences into his own personal voice. Sure, the mocking disdain is still there, but it's less clichéd and more pointed and witty (i.e., the sexual strategies on "I Wanna Sleep with You," or the media tainting/manipulating mass perception on "Mr. Jones"). Most of all, Furs rocked tighter and harder than their debut, sprucing up the band's Roxy Music/Velvet Underground-styled whoosh with driving, urgent rhythms and engaging melodic hooks.
Forever Now, produced by studio wizard Todd Rundgren, captures the Furs in a transitional period: Saxophonist Duncan Kilburn and guitarist Roger Morris are gone, and the band pursues a more varied and "pop" (i.e., less harsh, more radio-friendly) route. The title song and the single "Love My Way" have some of the then-emerging synth-pop sound while avoiding banality. The jangly, cynical folk-rock "Run and Run" pays tribute to influence of the Byrds and Dylan without trying to sound like them, and the deliciously disconsolate "Sleep Comes Down" has a dense orchestral, late-period Beatles sound.
Other nifty selling points: aside from Rundgren, other producers include Steve Lillywhite (pre-U2) and Martin Hannett (Joy Division, Buzzcocks). The bonus tracks include the Brecht/Weill standard "Mack the Knife" and P. Furs radio commercials. While the first LP is recommended primarily to hardcore Furs fans and devotees of Brit punk/new wave circa 1980, Talk and Forever Now in many ways sound better now than they did then.
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