When British group Felt signed to Creation Records, they did so with the understanding that their first release would be an all instrumental album, to which supportive label head Alan McGee agreed. The Seventeenth Century was less of a proper follow-up to their previous album Ignite The Seven Cannons as it was a system–clearing exercise, as Lawrence wanted to eliminate instrumental tracks on his albums. It was a low-key release; with ten short tracks, it was less an album then an extended single. Still, not many heard it, if they even knewabout it. But Lawrence was absolutely right to do so, as what came next is undoubtedly a masterpiece.
For the ever–ambitious Lawrence, Forever Breathes The Lonely Wordis a natural progression from the band’s two previous proper albums. With a clear vision in mind––no more talented yet reluctant Maurice Deebank dithering on the sidelines, no instrumental tracks, a new member offering a new creative vision and sense of direction, and a producer who fully understood them, the time was absolutely right for a superb record to be made. So important was the role of Martin Duffy to the band, it was decided to put his face on the cover of the album. It was a vote of confidence and a clear sign that this was a fresh and rejuvenated Felt.
The switch from Deebank’s guitar to Duffy’s Hammond organ is instantly noticeable on opening track, “Rain Of Crystal Spires,” a song that almost feels like a template for British indie pop and independent music of the late 1980s.Translated: intelligent, thoughtful lyrics with a beat-inspired edge over melodies take definite inspiration from the 60s, while being wholly original and never too retro. Thankfully, instead of exploiting this new instrumental feature, they tempered the arrangements so as not to overpower the listener with it. Sure, it’s found on nearly every track, but only on “Down But Not Yet Out” and “A Wave Crashed On The Rocks” does it step into the forefront—and boy, do those tracks really sparkle! But even without the delightful organ, songs such as “September Lady” and “All The People I Like Are Those That Died,” Lawrence turns in some of his finest, most heartfelt songs of his career.
Lawrence has stated that he always believed that Felt’s legacy and work would received the respect it deserves only from later generations, and for the most part he was right; in the case of Forever Breathes The Lonely Word, he was dead on accurate. Over the past two decades, it has found a home on countless best of lists for everything from 1980s British underground, indie-pop, dream-pop, to simply the best of the decade. Such accolades are completely understandable, as from beginning to end, this is an album of superb, understated pop; it hasn’t aged abitin thirty years, and likely won’t thirty years from now.