There is something about Richard Butler’s voice in The Psychedelic Furs that induces a warm feeling of nostalgia for a certain era when the Furs were such a unique and distinctive force. But the new album from The Psychedelic Furs, ‘Made of Rain’, has nothing whatsoever to do with nostalgia nor is it in any way concerned with recreating something that has passed. The message is, however, that the Furs are still a unique and distinctive force more than ever.
The album is produced by Richard Fortus who worked with Butler on what I consider to be the highly underrated and unappreciated project Love Spit Love which followed the initial break-up of the Furs in the early nineties – so this immediately serves notice that something special is on its way.
The band, having moved to the US, reformed and returned to playing live at the turn of the century (doing a series of tours with Australian band The Church) yet this is the first album to be recorded for decades. Butler explains:
It’s a fine balance. When you’ve been around for a while, people want to hear certain songs at your shows. It was even like that back when we toured with the second album…we’d do new ones like Pretty In Pink – y’know, pretty good songs – and people just stood there not getting it, wanting to hear the “old” stuff! So at first that was fine, as we didn’t do that much touring. It was exciting to play those songs again after taking a break. But as we did more and more, eventually we started to feel like a jukebox. And you want to be CREATIVE. And that won out. It got to this point where we felt we HAD to make a new record, we needed new songs to get into. And now I hear this album and I’m very pleased we did…
‘Made of Rain’ is a contemporary album for the modern times and while it has all the hallmarks of the Furs we know and loved, it has carved out its own place in the contemporary Pantheon of indie music.
At the heart of the ‘Made of Rain’ are earth shattering melodies and incisive lyrics. There is a level of layering and complexity and a sophistication that makes this a welcome and proud return for the band.
As I said in my review earlier this year of single of ‘You’ll Be Mine’, it’s like nothing has changed but everything has got better.
An example of the musical sophistication is ‘Ash Wednesday’ which shifts and changes in tone and pace in its heartbreaking tale of lost love:
Might be broken
and love lies murdered
Were those her footsteps I thought I heard or
Just the rainfall
against the window
The same old song so play it slowly
The acerbic lyrics, tempered with cynicism yet at the same time hopelessly romantic, provide a common thread throughout the album.
Thematically the word rain is repeatedly used – the idea of something symbolising pain and destruction and yet necessary for growth and bloom.
There’s…a lot of sorrow and darkness in it. A while ago I read the book-length poem The Man Made Of Rain by Brendan Kennelly. A person who was dying was visited by “a man made of rain” and I liked that idea; it fit. For some reason, when writing, I always seem to tend towards the melancholic. Or sometimes, also, anger. There have been very few “celebratory” songs…I suppose perhaps Love My Way, possibly Heaven. But for the most part it’s safe to say the songs are tinged with melancholy.
Single, ‘Come All Ye Faithful’ (reviewed by Backseat Mafia) with its relentless pounding bass is an example:
Come all ye playboys, you saints and sinners. And watch it rain on, and watch it rain on me. Come all ye playboys, you druggy mothers. And watch it rain on me
Opening track ‘The Boy That Invented Rock’n’Roll’ vividly recounts the fatalistic world of a rock icon (stated by Butler to be ‘in a way about Elvis Presley’):
A flight of crows my insect heart. The ticking veins this godless dark. The druggy days the pointless pain. The letterbox that’s full of rain
This blasts the album off with a racing pace: Butler’s voice infused with pain and wonder and the squawling guitars that define the Furs’ sound.
“Don’t Believe’ with its archetypal alto sax edge and signature off-kilter riffs deals with the world of false facts again references rain:
You wonder where the weather went. You’re sucking on a cigarette.
And hell here comes the rain again. And heaven isn’t heaven sent
‘Hide the Medicine’ is anthemic and thrilling – pulse-quickening choruses and a lyrical mastery that is stunning, dealing with domestic abuse and addiction with subtlety and compassion.
Hide the medicine
Hide the bruises and the fists
We don’t understand what you’re talking about
And we’re out on the ledge and we’re on the way down
The album is seeped in melancholia – a weariness and disappointment, perhaps on the state of modern world.
In many ways, it is a logical progression from their first seven albums as if there wasn’t ever a gap (the last one, ‘World Outside’, being released in 1991). And there is a distinct and evocative sound that quickly identifies it as a Furs album. However in my mind there is an added cohesion and vitality to the sound that creates a whole and complete piece of work: fresh and creative. It is without doubt one of their best.
‘Made of Rain’ is out now (Friday, 31 July 2020) through Cooking Vinyl.
The Furs line up is: Richard Butler, Tim Butler (Richard’s brother) on bass, Mars Williams on saxophone, Rich Good on guitar, Amanda Kramer on keyboards and Paul Garisto on drums.
The Furs have announced seven UK shows for April and May 2021 and a special intimate Q&A for Banquet Records in Kingston.
Tickets for the Albert Hall show are available now, an exclusive presale for the UK tour will be available from this Wednesday for fans who preorder the new album from the band’s Official Store.
Tickets will be on general sale on Friday 31st July. The full dates are:
27th London Royal Albert Hall *
28th Nottingham Rock City **
29th Bristol O2 Academy **
1st Glasgow Barrowland **
2nd Liverpool Academy **
3rd Manchester Academy 2 **
5th Cambridge Junction **
* Jah Wobble & The Invaders of the Heart
** Pauline Murray & The Invisible Girls
Feature Photograph: Matthew Reeves