Saturday, August 20, 2011

August 20: The Psychedelic Furs, "Love My Way"

Artist: The Psychedelic Furs
Song: “Love My Way”
Album: Forever Now
Year: 1982

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If there is one sure thing that one can see all across the history of music, it is the fact that regardless of the circumstances and current music scene, the art form itself continues to move forward at all times.  Even when one feels that the current sounds cannot evolve into anything of further artistic worth, music itself manages to defy this idea, finding new ways to present itself to new audiences.  This thought process was surely in play during the mid and late 1970’s, as it seemed that music was quickly devolving, with the glam and punk sounds appearing to leave little for up and coming performers to create from.  However, while it certainly did have some rather forgettable offspring, these styles of music also led to the post-punk and “new wave” sounds, and in these subgenres, some of the most memorable music of an era can be found.  Striking a stunning balance in terms of musical approach, sonic mood, and instrumental innovation, there are few groups that embody the early 1980’s as perfectly as The Psychedelic Furs, and even more than two decades after they disbanded, their music sounds just as fresh and exciting.  Going through a number of changes in lineup and musical approach, one can find breathtaking moments scattered across the history of the group, and yet there may be no more impressive or definitive a song in the catalog of The Psychedelic Furs than what one can experience on their superb 1982 single, “Love My Way.”

Though many may not be familiar with the name of the group or this song, there are few who have not heard “Love My Way,” as it is easily one of the most instantly recognizable hooks of the 1980’s, perhaps in the entirely of music history.  Unlike most other songs of the time period, “Love My Way” centers around the brilliant combination of drumming and keyboards, and this interlocking progression is in many way the very definition of the “new wave” sound.   Drummer Vince Ely deploys what is without question the finest performance of his career, as there is a larger presence to his playing than one finds elsewhere, and this tone gives the entire song an almost looming feel.  The keyboards come courtesy of one other than the albums’ producer, Todd Rundgren, and his playing proves to be one of the most important aspects of the overall feeling of the song.  However, the darker, almost tragic mood is largely a product of the bass from Tim Butler, and it is within his performance where one can see the close link to the entire post-punk movement.  The combination of the keyboards and bass stands today as one of the most breathtaking pairings of the decade, and these two instruments truly carry away the listener in the brilliant sonic pattern.  Guitarist John Ashton takes a somewhat lesser role on “Love My Way” when compared to the rest of his work, but it is the balance created by his light, almost surf-like sounds that complete this absolutely fantastic musical landscape.

Along with the unforgettable musical arrangements on “Love My Way,” the vocals from Richard Butler are similarly definitive of both the band and musical time period.  There is a grittiness within his singing that is somewhat similar to that found in punk rock, and yet there is also a more concentrated effort to retain the melody that make his singing something entirely new.  Yet Butler also seems to be channeling the spirit of the glam rock movement as well, and there are moments where his voices are rather “Bowie-esque.”  At every turn, Butler’s singing is nothing short of outstanding, and it is the detached, almost pained way with which he delivers every line that makes him stand out so far from his peers.  It is also the way that the backing vocals from “Flo & Eddie” (Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan) blend so perfectly that makes “Love My Way” such an amazing vocal achievement.  Yet the words that Butler sings are just as essential as the way in which he sings, and there are few lyrics in history that are as brilliantly poetic as what one can experience on “Love My Way.”  These words somehow manage to completely encompass the listener, as Butler is almost avant in the way that he spins the somewhat mysterious ode.  While they may seem a bit cryptic at times, the intent of the words is never in question, and “Love My Way” stands as one of the most uniquely intimate, almost sensual songs ever recorded.

As the decades have passed, a majority of the music from all across the 1980’s has faded into relative obscurity due to it sounding very dated.  However, The Psychedelic Furs have managed to completely avoid this pitfall, as their songs remain just as intriguing and energetic today as they did upon first release.  The fact that “Love My Way” falls into this category whilst simultaneously being as definitive an “80’s tune” as one can find anywhere is a testament to the extraordinary level of musicianship and quality one can experience on the song.  Each of the four band members are in top form throughout the entire song, and yet it is the way that they each give ample space to the others, moving as a single unit, that pushes “Love My Way” to such great heights.  The fact that the band were also able to deploy unforgettable hooks both musically and vocally further set them apart from their peers, and one can find influence of the band and this song in particular all across the next two decades of recorded music.  Even when the song was first unleashed onto the world, “Love My Way” found moderate chart success all across the globe, and yet it has remained a bit of a “cult classic” in the time since.  It is due to this nature that the song falls into the category of one that nearly everyone knows, but few are aware of its name or performers.  However, the fact remains that there is not another song in history that has a similar sonic appeal and impact than what one finds on The Psychedelic Furs’ masterful 1982 single, “Love My Way.”

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