Music

Fuzzy illogic – why it's never too late to fall for Felt and Lawrence

The long-awaited vinyl reissue of the English indie cult heroes' 10 albums offers another chance to discover one of the best and most eccentric bands of the Eighties.

In 10 years Felt released exactly 10 albums and 10 singles on the iconic indie labels Cherry Red and Creation. The immaculate symmetry of the Birmingham-formed band’s recording career – to say nothing of the near impossibly magical music to be found on those records, the first five of which have just been reissued on vinyl with the other five soon to follow – is about one of the most heartbreakingly perfect things in all of music. Sadly, much else about their career is perfectly heartbreaking.

Sweetly distilling Television, Lou Reed and quaint English romanticism, Felt were one of the great enigmas of Eighties pop – a group who could have been as big as The Smiths if not for a mixture of ill fortune and unchecked eccentricity. If you’ve never heard of Lawrence, Felt’s mononymous frontman, songwriter and only continuous member, here are a few potted facts to help you get to know maybe one of Britain’s greatest, and certainly strangest pop superstars that never was (see filmmaker Paul Kelly’s superb 2011 documentary portrait Lawrence of Belgravia for more).

In 1986, Lawrence took LSD for the first time an hour before a Felt gig packed with major label talent scouts, then subsequently refused to sing once onstage and made the venue turn all the lights off (suffice to say, contract offers did not flow). Of the seven bandmates Lawrence had in all across Felt’s lifetime, he was known to have selected several of them on the perceived quality of their haircuts.

Lawrence never eats vegetables nor allows visitors to use his toilet. Lawrence is ex-homeless and a recovering heroin addict, and currently releases music under the banner of his self-styled “novelty rock” project Go-Kart Mozart. His latest album Mozart’s Mini-Mart is released in tandem with the Felt vinyl reissues, and includes tracks such as When You’re Depressed, Relative Poverty and the rather more upbeat A Ding Ding Ding Ding Dong!!

Of the seven bandmates Lawrence had in all across Felt’s lifetime, he was known to have selected several of them on the perceived quality of their haircuts

Fame and fortune and Lawrence were never destined to make for natural bedfellows, it seems. And yet, at least it leaves untainted by overexposure some of the most extraordinary pop music ever composed.

Lawrence was fortunate to have been joined by not just one but two prodigiously gifted co-conspirators in Felt at different times (it helped of course that they both had good hair). Classically trained guitarist Maurice Deebank and keyboardist and future Primal Scream member Martin Duffy passed one another by like strands in a double helix in 1985 as the former’s tenure acrimoniously ended and the latter’s began, but both left an indelible mark.

From Deebank’s fingers fell the likes of Primitive Painters (featuring the Cocteau Twins’ Liz Fraser) and My Darkest Light Will Shine, guitar lines that don’t so much jangle – as those of so many of his imitators merely did (Johnny Marr is a famous fan of Deebank’s playing) – but cascaded like showers of gemstones on ice. From Duffy’s whirling digits came arguably Felt’s two finest albums in 1986’s Forever Breathes the Lonely Word and 1987’s Poem of the River.

Scattered across Felt’s catalogue like autumn leaves lie Lawrence’s impressionistically poetic and fiercely literate lyrics, sung with a peculiar air of half-spoken detachment. From The World Is As Soft As Lace to Sempiternal Darkness, Sunlight Bathed the Golden Glow, Rain of Crystal Spires and All The People I Like Are Those That Are Dead, Lawrence could inject more mystery, drama, sadness and majesty into a mere song title than many of his much more successful peers could an entire song.

As with all of the greatest cult bands, it’s much too late for Felt’s criminal commercial failures to ever be redressed. But it’s never too late to let them into your life.

Reissues of Felt’s first five albums and the latest album from Go-Kart Mozart are available now on Cherry Red

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