Felt: Crumbling the Antiseptic Beauty (Cherry Red)

Felt became one of the pillars of indie pop and dream pop thanks to their storied discography that Infamously consisted of ten albums and ten singles in ten years. After languishing out of print, it is now seeing a proper reissue campaign, thus giving the band a proper reintroduction to the world. Felt had begun two years prior, but its major introduction to the world came in 1982 with the release of their debut album, Crumbling the Antiseptic Beauty. The band had preceded that record with a single the year before entitled “Something Sends Me to Sleep,” a satisfying pop song that found bandleader Lawrence showing off his greatest asset: lazy, laconic vocals that seems cool and detached, not unlike that of Lou Reed, and one that clearly showed the influence of the 1970s New York underground rock scene. It was intended to whet the appetite for the full-length album that was to come.

The band began in 1980 when friends Lawrence and classically trained guitarist Maurice Deebank decided to form a band. Lawrence was a genuine fan of  Maurice’s guitar playing and compositional skills, and he rightly believe that the two could make good music together. When their debut finally appeared in 1982, it was as promising as one could get. Though relatively brief––six songs in 30 minutes ––it was a knockout punch delivered in velvet gloves. The guitars are gentle, heavenly, and have no real contemporary precedent aside from The Durutti Column. Opener “evergreen dazed” is a gently strummed instrumental that delicately floats through the listener’s mind, followed by ”Fortune” where we hear Lawrence verbalizing over a haze of guitars and drums. It sounds otherworldly, and it is; music has rarely surrounded this dreamy before, and it was clear that this was a band with something interesting and new to say. The haunting ”Birdman” and “Templeroy” would blend post-punk menace and dread, yet they possess a beauty that overwhelms and deftly blots out their dark underbellies.

Yet Lawrence has stated on numerous occasions that he was unhappy with the final results of crumbling, feeling that the songs were too delicate, fragile, and lacking any real heft, while the drums were placed so high in the mix that it led to people thinking that the drums were the forefront of the band. He’s right, of course; the drums are mixed way too high, overpowering the song beneath. Case in point; Felt would re-record “Cathedral” as a B-side, and the differences couldn’t be clearer.

Felt would get better, and they would get better quickly. Even though they were unsatisfied with the results of their work with producer John Rivers, they would eventually grow to have a good working relationship, with Rivers helping them to Recordsome truly fantastic music. Crumbling the Antiseptic Beauty is very much a debut album––a learning experience for its creators, but one that definitely hints at greatness yet to come.

 

Crumbling the Antiseptic Beauty is available now from Cherry Red.

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