Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Dust It Off: Felt - Forever Breathes the Lonely Word

Forever Breathes the Lonely Word (Felt)
Album: Forever Breathes the Lonely Word
Creation, 1986

Among indie pop fans, Felt may be a familiar name, but the band certain flies below most audiences' radars. Formed in the early post punk years in the UK, Felt was a vehicle for songwriter Lawrence Hayward, whose love of New York punk and his unavoidable pop sensibility put his music distinctly ahead of its time.

Forever Breathes the Lonely Word marked the group's debut on the legendary Creation Records and the peak of their artistic career. Though Hayward had no shortage of good ideas from the time he formed Felt in 1979, it was not until this album, released in 1986, that all these good ideas finally came together. Gaining keyboardist Martin Duffy and subsequently losing virtuoso guitarist Maurice Deebank, Felt's sound started to branch out from its obvious Television influences to forge a voice truly its own.

In many ways, Felt helps complete the missing link between 70's punk and late 80's twee pop. While indie pop often betrays a debt to the Ramones, it's hard to understand how the sweet innocence of twee arose from the leather-sporting bad boys of 1977 New York. But Forever Breathes falls somewhere in the middle of these two extremes. The criminally catchy melodies and irresistible gospel-esque organ lines expose Felt as a cornerstone in the development of British indie pop. On the other hand, the sparse, gritty production and the disaffected, restrained vocals (often compared to Lou Reed and Tom Verlaine) point to a darker, more rebellious side.

Most importantly, Forever Breathes is just an astonishing collection of near-perfect pop songs. With a boldly independent spirit, a fully-realized artistic identity and an infectious sense of melody, Felt's record could stand alongside the best independent albums of all time.

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