Saturday, March 31, 2012

March 31: The Psychedelic Furs, "Talk Talk Talk"

Artist: The Psychedelic Furs
Album: Talk Talk Talk
Year: 1981
Label: Columbia

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 an album in the catalog of The Psychedelic Furs than what one can experience on their superb 1981 record, Talk Talk Talk.

Standing as the groups' second fill-length record, Talk Talk Talk is a far more focused and overall powerful effort than their exceptional debut album.  Bringing out more of the strangely bright, poppy side of their uniquely underground, edgy rock,  one can see this record as one of the most important in the transition from post-punk into the building "new wave" sound.  The dual guitars from John Ashton and Roger Morris have a larger presence on this album than on their first release, and it is within the tension that the pair create where much of the allure of Talk Talk Talk resides.  Yet there is a balance in their playing that allows for a great amount of sonic diversity within the songs, as the sextet of musicians has truly figured out how to balance their combined sound to create a far larger and more imposing sound.  Along with this, there is often a somewhat dark bass groove put into place by Tim Butler, and it is within his playing where the links to the post-punk sound are most clearly stated.  However, The Psychedelic Furs set themselves far apart from any of their peers by the flawless inclusion of the saxophone of Duncan Kilburn.  His sound gives every song a completely unique feel, and yet it is the fact that they are able to so seamlessly blend all of these instruments together in so many different ways that makes Talk Talk Talk such a uniquely brilliant musical experience.

Along with the unforgettable musical arrangements on Talk Talk Talk 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 melodies that make his singing something entirely new.  Yet Butler also seems to be channeling the spirit of the glam rock movement as well on a number of songs, 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.  Yet the words that Butler sings are just as essential as the way in which he sings, and there are few lyricists in history that are as brilliantly poetic as what one can experience on every song on this album.  The words somehow manage to completely encompass the listener, regardless of the subject at hand, as Butler is almost avant in the way that he spins his somewhat mysterious odes and musings.  While they may seem a bit cryptic at times, the intent of the words is never in question, and Talk Talk Talk stands as one of the most uniquely intimate, almost sensual albums 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 Talk Talk Talk easily falls into this category whilst simultaneously being as definitive an “80’s album” as one can find anywhere is a testament to the extraordinary level of musicianship and quality one can experience on the record.  Each of the six band members are in top form throughout the entire album, and yet it is the way that they each give ample space to the others, moving as a single unit, that pushes Talk Talk Talk 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 album in particular all across the next two decades of recorded music.  Even when the record was first unleashed onto the world, Talk Talk Talk found moderate chart success all across the globe, and yet it has remained a bit of a “cult classic” in the time since.  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 1981 album, Talk Talk Talk.

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