File this one under: unexpected return to former glories. I was amazed to find this was their first album in 29 years after the band petered out at the beginning of the nineties. After dabbling in side projects and solo albums they are back with their eighth album and they sound as good as ever, right from the dramatic, broody opener The Boy Who Invented Rock & Roll. Although saxophone player Mars Williams survived the split and reformation, he doesn’t ruin second track Don’t Believe. This one is an absolute punch-the-air belter, with a soaring Richard Butler vocal, and it’s quickly followed up by the perfectly serviceable You’ll Be Mine. At this point you start to think: could this be at least as good as their eighties material?
Distracting saxophone notwithstanding, singer Richard Butler is in fine voice here. The further into the album you go it actually improves. The graceful elegance of This’ll Never Be Like Love steers clear of power ballad territory as if its life depends on it. Ash Wednesday is highly immersive, Butler doing his best Bowie, its moodiness incarnate, the sound of insomnia (“it’s 4am some Sunday morning, I’m full of empty”). We also get the stomping No-One with its slightly cliched lyrics about the queens of the underground.
Although the relatively low key Tiny Hands doesn’t work as well as the more forceful, dramatic material they save the best two for last. Turn Your Back On Me has a gorgeous elegiac, descending melody for Butler to croon “we keep coming back to this dirty town”. Final track Stars is as relaxed as these guys get. It sounds…. mature yet not dull, Butler infuses lines like “these are the days that we will all remember” with knowing experience.
The sound, soaring keyboards, downcast electric guitar evokes their classic period yet could have been recorded any time, it doesn’t sound dated. There’s no getting away from the sax that’s all over it but somehow the album overcomes this. This will please fans of the Psychedelic Furs, it’s a comeback that stands beside the best of their work. For those who enjoyed the later Bowie albums, you could do worse than listen to this.
“The Boy That Invented Rock & Roll” – 3:37
“Don’t Believe” – 3:45
“You’ll Be Mine” – 4:48
“Wrong Train” – 4:13
“This’ll Never Be Like Love” – 5:10
“Ash Wednesday” – 5:38
“Come All Ye Faithful” – 4:23
“No-One” – 4:23
“Tiny Hands” – 3:46
“Hide the Medicine” – 3:46
“Turn Your Back on Me” – 4:14
“Stars” – 3:57