They are back, with new music. The late 1970s band with numerous hits in the 1980s, like “Pretty in Pink” and “Love My Way”, never stopped touring but has been silent on new product since 1991.
It’s a wonder any band releases new music because there is no record industry, except for the mega artists.
Made of Rain sounds like it could have been recorded in late 1980s. The album captures the laid-back, swirling mix of sounds that gave the group their definitive vibe. To me, they always sounded like a busy city intersection with honking, growling mechanical sounds and the drone of urban life. Yes, that is a good thing.
Their first two albums, The Psychedelic Furs and Talk Talk Talk, helped usher in the post-punk wave of moody, electrified angst that would overrun the 1980s. The Furs hooked up with cutting edge producers like Steve Lillywhite, Todd Rundgren and Keith Forsey that shaped their sound, keeping the rough edges while giving it a commercial appeal. It did not hurt to have their song “Pretty in Pink” attached to the 1986 John Hughes film. The Furs were a favorite of older teens who could relate to the moody, disaffected vibe of the music.
In 1992, the band simply stopped and everyone went in different directions, before the Butler brothers reformed the band in 2000. They have been touring ever since. I saw them in concert about five years ago with The Church as their opening act. I was amazed at how close the band sounded to their records, the energy and the passion were real. Yes, you got the hits, but this was a band that would take you deeper into their music and back to their very beginning album.
Albums from older bands, who carved out a niche in a very specific era, are a mixed bag. Most try unsuccessfully to either replicate their original sound, coming off like a cover band, or attempt a more contemporary and less than engaging new sound.
From the opening track to the fade of the last track, you get the trademark Furs sound on Made of Rain. If you expect surprises, you will not find them here. This album does not blow away their best work, it lacks a classic song, but there are some very fine songs here.
The Furs are contemporaries of The Smiths, New Order and The Cure. At their best, the Furs matched the best work of these bands, but did not established the legacy as the others. That’s a shame. Listening to Made of Rain, I am reminded of The Cure in terms of mood and style as the songs are mined for atmospheric tonalities and similarities in vocal styles.
Snapshots of the album.
“The Boy Who Invented Rock and Roll” pulsates with pure Furs energy and attitude. It would fit on any of their previous albums. It is noisy and rough in presentation, but nicely produced to round the edges. One of the trademark sounds is the squawking saxophone, which if I have one criticism, is too far back in the mix.
“Don’t Believe” is the closest to a Furs classic. It has the swirling keyboard and guitar textures, and noisy drums. If you were to pick a song that sounded the The Cure, this would be the one.
“You’ll Be Mine” is perhaps the closest to a single, it has the production qualities and song structure that might have made it radio fare in a different era.
“Wrong Train” contains the familiar Furs angst and bombast. The big, loud production is what you associate with the Furs. I won’t say it is one of their best songs, but it has a familiarity that quickly settles into brain.
“This’ll Never Be Like Love” is a pure Smith’s depressing ballad. It has a shimmering production, but it is so downbeat. A dirge.
“Ash Wednesday” is another Cure sounding song. It is not quite as downbeat as “This’ll Never Be Like Love” but hooks deeply into your soul. This song has an interesting musical bridge which kicks it into a different gear, breaking up the emotional soundscape.
“Come All Ye Faithful” Not the Christmas song. An interesting song but one of the weaker on the album.
“No-One” This song sounds similar to early Furs, the chord progression and Richard Butler’s vocals seem lifted from Talk Talk Talk. That’s not a bad thing, I like the symmetry.
“Tiny Hands” This song starts as one thing and transitions to something entirely different. The Furs sound like R.E.M. on this song. A strange song.
“Hide the Medicine” A shimmering mid-tempo ballad. Not a great song, but interesting.
“Turn Your Back on Me” One of the top three songs on the album. The Furs, you get some interesting love songs, that do not exactly sound like love songs.
“Stars” This song seems like a roller coaster, it gathers energy for the fade out. Good, not great, uptempo song, but an effective closer to the album.