The Psychedelic Furs – 2019 UK Tour preview and idiosyncratic career retrospective
the official word is…
The Psychedelic Furs are coming back to the UK for a nine-date tour this October. The veteran post-punk band led by brothers Richard and Tim Butler, played a celebrated handful of summer UK shows in 2018 which included opening the prestigious Meltdown Festival (curated by The Cure’s Robert Smith) at the Royal Festival Hall to a sell-out crowd and huge acclaim.Returning to the UK for the third year in succession due to insatiable demand from fans, this tour will be a chance to revisit highlights from their storied career.
Ged Babey looks at how their progressive commercial success mirrored a gradual artistic decline, but how they eventually recaptured some of there essence rare.
Once Upon A Time … (1980/81) the Psychedelic Furs were the Best Band in The World. Or at least I thought so… there was a lot of ‘competition’ – the Antz, Bauhaus, the Cure, the Banshees, Scars… but the Furs were the coolest. There eponymous debut was a masterpiece which they never bettered. The singer called himself Butler Rep for reasons best-known to himself and early reviews said they played the whole set with their backs to the audience as a kind of art-statement or ‘pose’, depending on whether you liked them or not. They were an eye-liner, shades and cigarettes band … the words ‘stupid’ and ‘useless’ seemed to appear in every song on the debut album…. it was true love… but too good to last…
By 1987 they had moved to America, looked like shit, sounded worse and had destroyed their credibility altogether. They were a bloated, hollow shell bringing out one of the worst albums imaginable… Midnight To Midnight, which even singer Richard Butler ended up calling “hollow, vapid and weak”
(Possible titles for this piece: paragraph on the subject : sample song video)
‘Caroline Laughs and it’s Raining All Day’- The Psychedelic Furs – Not Just A One-Hit Wonder…
Like the Only Ones being only renowned for ‘Another Girl, Another Planet’ by the general public, most people know the Psychedelic Furs for one song and one song only… here is the original recording, pre-movie with its trippy Alice in Wonderland original video.
The Band who were written out of post-punk history for looking backwards.
You never read about the Furs in any of the Post-Punk books -hello Simon Reynolds- because there was always the perception that they were nothing ‘new and forward-looking’ because Richard Butler professed a love of Bob Dylan. The back cover of the debut album was a straight copy of the Velvet Undergrounds, they had a sax so they sounded like Roxy Music and Butler looked and acted like a mixture of Rotten, Bowie and Jagger on-stage….. what rubbish! Hang on…. watch this….
‘I Follow Where My Mind Goes... Why Psychedelic Furs should’ve been bigger than The Cure’
Would be a long and contentious essay, which I don’t have time to write … both bands were pretentious, commercially-minded and talented. The Cure were more consistent perhaps, the Furs had higher peaks and deeper troughs quality-wise.
In America they are probably equally well thought-of, and both sort of gateway bands to proper alternative/punk music. The Vandals song ‘Behind The Music’ – about hype and radio-play includes the immortal line Cuz he’s gotta play The Cure and The Psychedelic Turds / For the 80’s flashback weekend. But I digress, here is the Furs finest pop moment, Love My Way…
I Called Her Fab and Mrs Fish / I didn’t get her name... Attitudes to Women In the work of Psychedelic Furs.
Another thesis I’m not gonna write. Richard Butlers lyrics despite being oblique, poetic and stylish always had a stoned misogyny about them. ‘I Wanna Sleep With You’ and ‘Into You Like A Train’ weren’t even subtle. A review of Talk Talk Talk I recall mentioned Butler trying to adopt the mantle of Sky Saxon and his attitudes to women as being there to serve as lovers and muses. The old-school rock-piggery is probably what put off the rock critics like Jon Savage, Simon Reynolds and even Steven Wells (who trashed Talk Talk Talk in the NME ). To us fans (at the time) it was the music, the look and sex-drug-rock-sleaze vibe which was very much part of the appeal. Lest we forget, the Furs begat Wasted Youth and Sisters of Mercy (John Ashton produced ‘Alice’)… Even the much later World Outside album had songs like ‘Don’t Be A Girl’ and this one…
Listen to Records with the A-Bomb Hairstyle – Psychedelic Furs and the question of Style over Substance
Now I am older and wiser, even I, a self-confessed ‘fan’ of the band, can see that, the Furs were always perhaps a triumph of style over substance, of artifice over authenticity. They were poseurs, magpie-pop-cultural thieves and charlatans – but STILL, even after realising and admitting that, I can’t help but love them…. Well, the first three albums and some of Book of Days (1989 – a dry, depressing album but at least a return to seriousness), and World Outside (1991 – almost a return to the heights of their glory days)
The Rockpalast set shows them in their prime – but they still have something of their younger selves about them in 2019.
Yeah, I am aware a preview should big-up and praise the artist in question, but I wanted to tell the truth… which is, I fuckin’ loved this band. They let me (and themselves) down. They got their shit back-together.
I had to use a muscleman to pick me off the floor … Psychedelic Furs still a band worth seeing live.
Based in the USA, they seemed to become a bit of a ‘heritage act’, touring, repackaging the hits… But then I actually saw the Furs live in London a few years back and they were genuinely magnificent. Ghost In You, Heaven, all the later hits seemed great live, far better than the recorded versions, but when they play the early stuff, it is easy to forgive all ‘the unpleasantness’ of Midnight to Midnight and its dance re-mixes, because they sound unbeatable. So I am pleased to see them touring the UK again … and taking Wendy James along for the ride. Let’s hope for some new material as well.
The Psychedelic Furs on Facebook
and their Website
1 OCT Manchester O2 Ritz Manchester
3 OCT Portsmouth The Pyramid Center, Portsmouth
4 OCT Brighton,Brighton Dome Concert Hall
5 OCT Birmingham, O2 Institute Birmingham
7 OCT Leeds, Stylus
8 OCT Glasgow. O2 Academy Glasgow
9 OCT Newcastle upon Tyne, O2 Academy Newcastle
11 OCT Nottingham, Rock City
12 OCT London Roundhouse
All words Ged Babey