Record Review: The Psychedelic Furs – Forever Now

CBS Legacy ‎| US | CD DLX RM | 2002 | CK 85916

CBS Legacy ‎| US | CD RM | 2002 | CK 85916

The Psychedelic Furs: Forever Now DLX RM US CD [2002]

  1. Forever Now
  2. Love My Way
  3. Goodbye
  4. Only You And I
  5. Sleep Comes Down
  6. President Gas
  7. Run And Run
  8. Danger
  9. No Easy Street
  10. Yes I Do [Merry-Go-Round]
  11. Alice’s House [early ver.]
  12. Aeroplane
  13. I Don’t Want To Be Your Shadow
  14. Mary Go Round
  15. President Gas [live]
  16. No Easy Street [live]

Last Saturday night, as I was perusing the racks at Repo Record, I had a little trade-in value and was looking for the right titles to pick up. I was hovering in the “P” section in search of some Prince, when I noticed the full set of three CBS Legacy DLX RMs of the first three albums by the Psychedelic Furs. One of these was going home with me, but which one?  I had the early US CBS issues of “The Psychedelic Furs” and “Talk Talk Talk.” the US CD/LP of the debut was long compromised by the removal of the song “Blacks/Radio” [which I have never heard!] and the substitution of two non-LP singles, “Susan’s Strange” and “Soap Commercial.” The DLX RM had those two added as bonus tracks, so I would only really be hearing “Blacks/Radio” and the cover B-side of “Mack The Knife” and a demo of “Flowers.” “Talk Talk Talk” was released intact, back in the day, and the bonus tracks there were the 7″ of “Mr. Jones” and two demos. In the end, I opted for the “Forever Now” reissue.

As strange as it may seem for someone who was all over the first two Psychedelic Furs albums on the week of US release, I have never owned or even heard “Forever Now,” if you can believe that! I can’t give a good reason why, either. I loved the hit single from it that got a ton of MTV airplay. So here is another classic period New Wave album that I was finally giving a spin over 30 years later. Last week we quickly moved on from “Prince Charming.” Will the Psychedelic Furs fare better?

The title track intro featured phased guitars with newly winsome synth lines treading where this band had never been before. Flo + Eddie’s patented harmonies inject the shadows with a little sunshine for a change. The tubular bell solo on the middle eight vied with the hi-hats for a unique sound before the “warm jet” churn of the guitars returned to the fold. Richard Butler said “stupid” here for what might be the last time in this band. There was more space for everything to have a moment in the spotlight in Rundgren’s more democratic staging of the album sound with the outro solo by John Ashton being  delightfully flanged and chorused.

psychedelic furs - lovemywayUK7AThe marimba hook and queasy 2-note synth hook of “Love My Way” remains classic 33 years later. This is one of those perennial hits that never wore out its welcome. If you can believe it, the distinctive descending legato b-vox [“aaaaaaaaaah”] hook of Flo + Eddie was only added at the last minute when Volman and Kaylan listened to the playback and heard themselves missing! They suggested the addition to Rundgren and it was quickly hammered out and thus elevated the middle eight of this rightful hit single.

The next track, “Goodbye,” featured a skanking bounce to the horn section. It almost attained an Oingo Boingo vibe! Richard Butler was finally as scornful here in his delivery as on the previous two albums. The relentless rhythm section echoed the train station that the song took place in effectively. I loved the eighth note morse code guitar and thrilling cellos in the intro to “Only You And I” before the rhythm section joined in. The chorus featured a great Butler lyric.

“Knee jerk negativity never got me through.” – Richard Butler

Ultimately it recalled a “Talk Talk Talk” cut, but would those ever have had strings or glockenspiel? Rundgren really fleshed out the band’s horizons here. His penchant for Beatleisms were an unexpected juxtaposition for this band. The psychedelic string freak out in the fadeout was a typically out of character treat.

The detuned guitar hook of “Sleep Comes Down” hit swiftly in the intro and the eighth notes on the hi-hat created a delightful tension. The cellos in the middle eight went full tilt into Beatle-land before the song returned to its spartan, ascetic vibe. “President Gas” was a dark, cynical classic that was immediately familiar from the times I’ve seen The Furs live over the years. Only twice, actually, but this song was played at each show; 20+ years apart! We actually needed more songs like this during the Reagan era. The acoustic middle eight was a shock as I was used to the live renditions I’d heard over the years. Rundgren sure kept the mix here moving and consistently intriguing.

psychedelic furs - dangerUK7A“Danger” was an absolutely unique wheezing, cacophonous track complete with incongruous soul horn injections. It was brief and unsettling in keeping with the song’s title but it was remixed for a UK  7″ [2:43] by Ed Thacker. I liked Thacker’s work with Icehouse, so maybe this was a worthwhile single to get? The greasy sax solo by Gary Windo came completely out of left field and I love how it morphed into skronk by the end of its succinct two bar lifespan.

“No Easy Street” played like a minor key cousin of “Love My Way.” Just try singing the lyrics to that song along; the meter is identical. This time Rundgren carried the impressionistic sax solo. Love how Butler carries the “e” in “eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeasy street” here.

The motorik drum rhythms of the closer [on the original album] “Yes I Do [Merry-Go-Round]” got right down to business as the intro used white noise pad hits to enhance the rhythms. The cello sawing away over the drums presaged Echo + The Bunnymen’s “Never Stop” of the following year. Big time to these ears, though the Bunnymen track is the only one that attained the status of classic. Butler’s delivery on the verse sounds as if he can barely be bothered to breathe while he was singing, so breathless was he by the end of each couplet. This ended the classic album but the bonus tracks were more of a scattershot afterthought than something approaching canon.

“Aeroplane” featured drum machines and what sounded like everything but the kitchen sink contribute to the cacophonous vibe on that number. I still can’t discern exactly what I was hearing. Butler’s vocal delivery recalled the debut in the repetitive construction of the verses. “I Don’t Want To Be Your Shadow” presaged the lighter fare to come on “Mirror Moves.” The live cuts showcased the differences in the live arrangements necessitated with no cello players accompanying them on tour.

Thirty three years later, this album sounds pretty sweet and slots effortlessly into the four album arc from 1980-1984. The songs effect the ideal balance of pop songcraft with the dark underbelly that they first brought to the table in 1980. Todd Rundgren’s production was vibrant and surprising, and it allowed unexpected glimpses at the group’s original dark sound that they were evolving away from as they got more skilled. This being Rundgren, the Beatleesque string touches were both unexpected and yet logical in retrospect.  The sound palette allowed for synthesis to creep further under the door than ever before while there being no danger of incipient chilliness. This was a warm, woody sound that served the songs very well. I also liked the album that came after this one very much. It might not be as consistent as this, but the hight points sit very high indeed in my personal canon. They lost me at “Midnight To Midnight,” however.

– 30 –

About postpunkmonk

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13 Responses to Record Review: The Psychedelic Furs – Forever Now

  1. Love your erudite review. Listening to “Forever Now” will always bring back the smell of clove cigarettes and the feeling of hopeful expectation that the New Wave 80s ushered in. Them wuz the days…

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      Orange County DJ – Gosh, I had forgotten all about clove cigarettes! Since I was in the sticks of the Southeast, the clove cigs wave didn’t hit there until ’87-’88! Sad, but true! By the time hipsters were smoking clove cigs where I was, it was all over and going down the drain, so my association of cloves is anything but optimistic.

      Like

  2. cdave2 says:

    Curious about your thoughts on the early version of “Alice’s House.” The final version from “Mirror Moves” remains one of my favorite Furs tracks – up there with “Dumb Waiters” – and this take is deliciously evil. Madness and mayhem. Mwahahaha!

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      cdave2 – Hmm. It’s been a while since I have listened to “Mirror Moves,” so I’ll have to rectify that tonight with an A/B comparison and get back to you! The backing vocals on the early version did stand out as being particularly malevolent.

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      cdave2 – Oh, definitely! The demo version was far more foreboding than the “Mirror Moves” take, which had for more conventional rock chug. In contrast, the backing vox on the demo version were impolite and in your face. The demo almost had a Sisters Of Mercy feel to it with the goth vibe and drum machine/4-track methodology. The demo of “Alice’s House” sounded like a cut off of “Some Girls Wander By Mistake.”

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      • cdave2 says:

        “Impolite” – great word for a music review; I”ll remember that! Good call on the “Some Girls…” comparison. I’d forgotten that John Ashton worked with SoM on a couple of tracks but no longer have a copy to check the details. There’s your Halloween playlist sorted. :)

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  3. JT says:

    After your dismantling of Prince Charming earlier this week, I was almost nervous to read what you might do to Forever Now, an album that I unreservedly deem an untouchable classic. Glad you liked it!

    I saw the tour for this one in the gym at Kent State University (site of the famous National Guard shootings in the early 1970s, and the place where Gerry Casale met Mark Mothersbaugh). It was the first non-mainstream show I ever saw, the first one not in a big arena, the first one in a smallish space filled with weirdos wearing black, with funny haircuts. In other words: my tribe from that point forward, for many years.

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      JT – Lucky you! I would have been all over this show, had it happen in the backwater where I lived. This a valuable P Furs album. I can’t really say why I skipped it when it came out. It was always one of those album I intended to buy but…

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  4. Echorich says:

    Forever Now is a classic for me and must be played directly after Talk Talk Talk because in my mind those two albums are wonderfully intertwined with memories of 1981/82. It was a time when my friends and I would be shuttling from one venue to another to see bands play on the same night. Thankfully promoters at the smaller venues and clubs worked together not to eat into each other’s pay audience. The Furs were one of those bands that you just didn’t miss back then. I remember I was invited to be an extra on St. Marks Place for the filming of The Rolling Stones’ Waiting On A Friend, but declined as The Furs were playing that night and I wasn’t going to chance missing a minute of them. That night at the Ritz in early July of 1981 was magical. The Furs played for the better part of 2 hours and I didn’t miss a single song I wanted to hear. I can tell you that to this day I remember that performance of President Gas as it had the entire audience pushing forward with every “UH” from Richard Butler.
    To get back to the album, it is probably the only time, for me, that Todd Rundgren was in complete harmony with the band and music he was producing. The Butler brothers were open to his experiments and he to their overall vision.
    And Monk, I’m not so sure I think of Mirror Moves as lighter fare. More mature subject matter, maybe, interpersonal politics, definitely. Highwire Days from Mirror Move is one of my all time favorite Furs songs.

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      Echorich – Maybe the Fairlight from “Ghost In You” is coloring my memories, as It’s been a while since I’ve had the pleasure. Of course, “Heaven” a total favorite from this band. Such a soaring song with an excellent performance from Richard. This was the highlight from the non”Talk Talk Talk” portion of the last concert I saw.

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    • SimonH says:

      Agree re Highwire Days, one of their best, great live. Have remained a big fan for the long haul and have even found things to love on MtM. World Outside was an impressive autumnal, late career release. Would be interested to hear a new album and would like to think they could pull off the trick of using experience to play to their strengths after so long away from releasing an album. Penetration have just done this with their first album for 26 years, recommended to anyone who would like more of a mix between Pentration and Invisible Girls styles.

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  5. Taffy says:

    Needed to chime in with my two big thumbs up for Forever Now, which was the first Furs album I loved completely. The previous two albums were both awfully good, but I love a catchy tune and this one (and Mirror Moves too) are just stacked with postpunkpop goodness. I’ve seen the Psych Furs numerous times over the decades, but my first experience was in early ’83 (with the awesome Divinyls opening) and I think it was the combination of prominent cellist and Richard Butler’s cigarette-stained vocals which sealed my devotion.

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      Taffy – Ooooh! You saw Divinyls in ’83? Serious jealousy! I worship that first Divinyls album, but only it. Divinyls quickly left their protective bubble afterward, but I still say INXS should have gotten Christina Amphlett to become their lead singer. It would have solved all sorts of problems with verve, if you ask me.

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