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Felt – A Decade In Music – Box Set

Crumbling The Antiseptic Beauty
The Splendour Of Fear
The Strange Idols Pattern And Other Short Stories
Ignite The Seven Cannons
The Seventeenth Century

Felt were part of the UK indie label explosion of the early eighties. They weren’t big players. Not game changers like The Smiths or Cocteau Twins, but within circles of that particular fandom they were well known and, in a certain sense, leaders of the movement. Felt lasted the entire decade, putting out ten albums and singles of cool, sensitive guitar music. According to some, this is exactly according to frontman Lawrence’s stated aim.

Cherry Red (to whom Felt were signed) have compiled the first five of those ten albums within this lavish Box Set. The vinyls are available in a deluxe gatefold sleeve. The CD version comes in a bespoke 7” box, complete with various ephemera consisting of; the original album in a special gatefold sleeve – long deleted 7” vinyl single pertaining to the relevant year of release – reproduction gig flyers – double sided wall poster – and four button lapel badges. All the music has been remastered by Kevin Metcalfe and Lawrence.

Enigmatic frontman/founder Lawrence was a keen fan of the New York punk and new wave scenes and took the name Felt from a Television lyric. It is believed that the very sound of the word inspired Lawrence to use the name and affect a similar vocal style to his idol, Tom Verlaine. I detect some of Lou Reed’s growl and perhaps Robert Forster’s eccentric brooding within Lawrence’s vocal pretensions, but it is certainly Verlaine who looms largest.

Another of Felt’s famed ambitions was to release the greatest debut album of any British act. They had The Sound’s Adrian Borland lined up to produce. However this fell through and the band eventually made Crumbling The Antiseptic Beauty with John A Rivers. After working with John Leckie on The Strange Idols Pattern And Other Short Stories, Felt had their biggest breakthrough with the single ‘Primitive Painters’. The band had enlisted Robin Guthrie to produce fourth album Ignite The Seven Cannons and his Cocteau Twins partner Elizabeth Fraser lent her powerful vocals to the single, securing the band No 1 in the alternative chart.

Felt CD Boxset

It was a high as they got. In retrospect, Felt clearly suffered from bad timing. Being on Cherry Red and then Creation they certainly helped lay the foundations for the C86 jangle pop scene, for Madchester ‘baggy’ and even Britpop. Yet Felt’s heyday came at the wrong moment. They were in the right place at the wrong time, a ‘missing link’ between Postcard (Orange Juice, etc) and The Smiths. As per all of the Cherry Red reissues we’ve covered, in particular the box sets, A Decade In Music is a wonderful artifact. Having all the music from that era in one new package is highly desirable. However what this box set achieves above all else is a welcome clean-up on the mastering. Ignite The Seven Cannons is especially improved. Having Robin Guthrie produce your album is an exciting idea on paper. However in practice his landmark work with Cocteau Twins did not always translate well to other bands, leaving many with foggy, indistinct mixes. Guitar, bass and keyboard parts sound crisper and sharper here. Newcomers may be none the wiser, but I think Felt fans will be pleased.

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