Living after midnight
Paul W. Hullah establishes contact with The Psychedelic Furs‘ Tim Butler. who tells him why he thinks the band are at their strongest.
They were Bow ie's favourite band. He asked to produce them but they turned him down so. instead. he shamelessly plagiarised their Cockney—rock blur oferoaking vocals and fuzz-guitar on his Scary .ilmzsters‘ album. Their longevity (they formed in 1977) is matched only by the influence they have always held over other— often more commercially successful — pop acts. REM. The Sisters of Mercy. The (‘hameleons. The Jesus and Mary Chain. Blur. even 'I‘rans‘vision Vamp— they all owe a considerable musical debt to Richard Butler and his enigmatic friends.
The first four Furs Li’s ( 1980—4) were each progressive in the sense t)T/)l'()gr(’.8i8‘it1g.\()Ht(‘lt'/tt’l't’ artistically and. set alongside The Cure. The Bunnymen and Siouxsie‘s similarly requisite stylings‘. became compulsory listening for students and art-punks alike. The bird-like figure of Richard Butler ‘smoked cigarettes like a god' (.\'.\IE) and sang like he. erm. smoked a lot of cigarettes. His lyrics. set atop insistent but simple guitar structures. were more literate than your average new wave fodder and. with their enigmatic narratives. opened an avenue many post-punk. pre-.\'ew Romantic lyricists chose to pursue.
It seemed that the Furs were the band that the Velvets' eulogisers had always been waiting for. Only an ill-advised flirtation with stadium pomp-rock ( 1986's dreadful .llidnight To .Widlttg/t!) blotted their otherwise original copybook - at the same time. typically. carving them a corner of the L'S market that they still hold today. They surprised everyone with the courageous return to form of '89s Book ()_t‘[)uys. a bridling. pure work which saw them revisiting the minimalism of their earliest material. The current LP. The World Outside. consolidates the Furs“ impressive return to a seriously unbloated artistic integrity — all the more admirable when you consider that they regularly play 3tl.t)t)t) capacity stadium gigs in the L'S (where they now reside) whilst on their British home turf they‘ve never really cracked it massive. It took an AOR air-brushed rehash of their classic track ‘l’retty In
Pink‘. (ab)used in its fifth year as the title songof a Yankee brat-pack movie. to put the Furs in the U K singles chart in 1986. and. true to the cult form
they represent. they‘y e not been back since.
‘It all got kind of confusing for a while .' admits Furs bassist Tim Butler. younger brother of the aforementioned Richard (iod. ‘A couple of years ago. around the .llidnighl 'I'r) .ilidnighr period. we'd be playing concerts and half the audience would be twelve-year-old girls wearing pink T-shirts and screaming for “Pretty In Pink”. All our older. long-term fans would be looking at them and saying “Who the hell are all these screaming kids'.’". while the kids are looking at them and saying “Who the hell are all these old c—-s‘.’!” Something had to change. and we realised that.
‘We don‘t play anything in the live set from Midnight To .tlidnighi nowadays.‘ he adds. reassuringly. ‘We all felt that that album was a mistake. For various reasons. not least the record company /(/1(’It (735/. we went otfon a tangent that involved forgetting that kind of edge that the Furs had always been about. We tried to smooth it
ON FOLLOWING PAGES: FINI TRIBE O BOBBY WATSON O ALICE COOPER
The Furs: relax, girls. they're doing the old stutt.
off too much and our fans. not being stupid. realised that and reacted against it. Hopefully. with the last two albums. we've won those fans back. We‘ve returned to the simple idea of songs. which is always what we‘d been good at before. right from the “Sister tiurope" dayson. Maybe Bonk ()fl)u_vy was a bit too simplistic— alter the polish and sheen of Midnight 'l'o .ilidniehi. we really wanted to strip things down again. ()n The World ()ulsidi'. i think we've rediscovered ourselves and stumbled across the best possible manifestation. Richard's lyrics too. they get better and better. We used to be angry young men. and that suited us. We forgot about that for a while and we suffered. Now we're. erm. angry middle-aged men. I suppose. And we‘re glad about that.‘
The Psychedelic Furs. turning longevity into .in art form. and doing it with style. The I).S'.\'('/I('(1t’/i(‘ l'iiry play The Hit/Witt hind. (Ililsgim' (m Fri 4.
The list 27 September I“ ( tetober I‘m] 29