From its exhilarating opening bars, Made Of Rain – the first Psychedelic Furs album in 29 years – sounds like them and them alone. It’s a joy to hear again, fresher than ever, that unique mesh of sounds and layers, that fusion of smooth and stark, of restraint and abandon, of melancholy and rage, of optimism and nihilism, of tough and tender. Their ageless charisma flows anew. “It’s got that depth and weight of sound”, says Richard Butler as 2020 begins. Talking about the first track, The Boy That Invented Rock & Roll, he suggests, “It’s saying rock & roll was born out of feelings like these…”the ticking veins, this godless dark , the druggy days, the pointless pain…a bag of tears where love is gone”. In a way it’s about Elvis Presley and all those people, but not just any individuals – it’s the feelings which rock & roll, for me, comes from. And of course rock & roll has a great deal of sexuality involved too. The boy is…an idea: I’m not claiming that position for myself!”
The Psychedelic Furs may not have invented rock & roll per se, but their influence since arriving on the post-punk scorched-earth landscape four decades ago has reverberated and resonated among all those who cherish the sweet-and-sour spot where rawness and romanticism meet. “I’m aware of the fact that people cite us an influence”, says Richard, “though I don’t often recognise it in their music. It’s gratifying of course, as it is that there’s still an interested and enthusiastic audience for us. That’s an honour.”
As the Furs ’witty, poetic, pugnacious onslaughts seared out of punk then sashayed beyond New Wave, launching a fleet of durable hits, they evolved electrically and elegiacally until taking a studio hiatus from 1991. Yet since reconvening as an essential live act at the turn of the century, they’ve found the applause growing louder and louder. People realised how much they loved those songs from the 1980 debut The Psychedelic Furs, 1981’s Talk Talk Talk, 1982’s Forever Now, 1984’s Mirror Moves, 1987’s Midnight To Midnight, 1989’s Book Of Days and 1991’s World Outside, from early forays like Sister Europe and India through Pretty In Pink and President Gas to radio staples Love My Way, Heaven, The Ghost In You and Heartbreak Beat. And while The Furs lay latent (studio-wise), Butler remained busy, releasing two Love Spit Love albums and a solo album, as well as painting exhibitions. Yet the urge, the itch, came back and the skies opened to deliver Made Of Rain.
Given that the band were active touring, why hasn’t there been a new album for so long?
“It’s a fine balance”, muses Richard. “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…”
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