Felt were sort of perfect. They made ten albums in ten years and managed to encapsulate the sound of Alternative Music in the eighties better than any band of their era - including The Smiths
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Felt were sort of perfect. They made ten albums in ten years and managed to encapsulate the sound of Alternative Music in the eighties better than any band of their era – including The Smiths. Unfortunately for the band, when the calendar rolled over to 01 01 90, their time was up. Jangly introspection was so last decade and grunge was lurking around the corner. Founder member Lawrence knew his band’s moment had passed and slipped quietly away, leaving a handful of voracious fans to sing their praises and sow the seed of a cult. A well-mannered, polite cult who patiently waited for their moment to say to the world, “See? We told you they were great!” That moment could be now, so if you see a group of fifty-somethings in long cardigans and the remnants of bowl haircuts, grinning from ear to ear, the reason is that all ten Felt albums are getting reissued this year and the first five have been given the boxed set treatment by Cherry Red.
What do you get for your post Brexit pound notes? You get a collection of ephemera, some non-album singles and five lovely, idiosyncratic albums. Right from the first track on their debut album, “Crumbling the Antiseptic Beauty”, (pretentious titles were a speciality of the band, it seems…) the scene is set. With the jagged rhythms and distorted guitars of Punk and New Wave still fresh in the mind, Lawrence turned his back on all that and wrote delicate instrumentals and atmospheric, minor key music, drenched in echo. On “Crumbling…” Lawrence’s Lloyd Cole/Tom Verlaine voice is pushed to the back of the mix and swamped in reverb which sometimes makes him sound as if he’s singing in a school gym. Weirdly, it fits the sound perfectly. For their third album “The Strange Idols Pattern and Other Short Stories”, veteran producer John Leckie was drafted in to increase the production values and the songs are given a more commercial sheen. “Roman Litter” would have filled the dance floor of any indie disco in 1984.
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Felt managed to combine an almost classical guitar sensibility with an alternative edge. Much of this can be attributed to Maurice Deebank, an incredible and sadly neglected musician whose ringing guitar style should place him at the high table with Johnny Marr and John Squire. Sadly, he’s slipped into obscurity and now lives in a monastery. How very Felt.
If you know Felt at all, it’ll be for “Primitive Painters”, a collaboration with Elizabeth Fraser, which regularly pops up on those eighties indie hits compilations which get tossed out from time to time. Originally from their fourth album “Ignite The Seven Cannons” and produced by Robin Guthrie of the Cocteau Twins, it’s their most consistent album of the first five. For 2018, it’s been substantially remixed and chunks of Guthrie’s ethereal treatments have been hacked back, leaving the songs to breathe a bit more. It’s either sacrilege or a blessed relief, depending on how much you like digital reverb and echo.
Felt did OK in the eighties. Their albums sold quite well. They could draw a crowd to their gigs. Unfortunately, their music is so rooted to a decade, that it almost seemed wrong to play it again, until a respectful period of time had passed. Well, times up. Felt have been waiting patiently for you. You’ve got a lot of catching up to do.
“A Decade In Music” is available now via Cherry Red Records