Long after their initiation to post-punk Britain as art rockers with a predilection for edgy pop hits, The Psychedelic Furs remain all the more iconic.
Even their most recent album, 2020’s “Made of Rain” – recorded nearly 30 years after its predecessor, and 40 since their eponymous debut – is more quizzically enigmatic than it is focused, proving, again how mercurial its song-writing vocalist/co-founder Richard Butler, and his bassist brother, co-founder Tim Butler, can be.
The fact that their music has become elemental to cinema (John Hughes’s “Pretty in Pink” is named for the Furs’ smash) and streaming networks (Netflix’s “Stranger Things,” Amazon’s “The Wilds”) shows how music so ambiguous can be atmospheric and scene-setting. And, whether it’s the melancholy punk of their start, their shiny-synth pop days, or their swirling dance-rock era, there was never one easy-to-pin Psychedelic Furs sound, and there surely won’t be anytime soon.
Head to Parx Casino for the Psychedelic Furs on Saturday, July 16, to see for yourself.
Talking about the vagaries in his writing, Richard Butler told Songfacts on the release of “Made of Rain” that, “I don’t set out to write about something…. Or anything like that, or any particular situation. I just sit down and, for the most part, the words just start coming. I’ll listen to the music and let it put me into a certain mood and then write lyrics that are inspired by that mood. I’m not writing about anything or anybody or any situation in particular at that beginning point. Sooner or later, it starts to make sense and then that’ll be the point where I’m like, ‘Well, this line has to go because it doesn’t tie in with the rest of it and it doesn’t make sense next to this line.’ And then it gradually coalesces into something like a readable, understandable form.”
As for waiting nearly 30 years to make new music, both Butler brothers have addressed the fact that they got sick of the grind of yearly album-tour-album-tour cycles. Plus, each brother is cognizant of having to hold up their iconic early catalog – releases such as “The Psychedelic Furs,” “Talk Talk Talk,” “Forever Now,” “Mirror Moves,” “Midnight to Midnight” and “Book of Days,” all recorded within one decade – as high-water marks, difficult to surpass.
“We thought about doing another album, but were afraid to see if we could do an album that could hold up shoulder-to-shoulder to our previous work,” Tim Butler told Cleveland Scene last week. “That’s why it took so long.”
And through the course of Richard Butler’s always impressionistic lyrics and raspy vocals of “Made of Rain,” everything from “Ash Wednesday” and “The Boy That Invented Rock and Roll” are given the churning, spidery Psychedelic Furs treatment. And no matter what period they’ll play from during the Parx Casino show, it is that gauzy, melancholy Psychedelic Furs treatment you’ll be waiting for.