Mar 26, 2012

The Psychedelic Furs - Tarrytown Music Hall, Tarrytown NY, 3.22.12

Reviewed by Liz Maher for Stupefaction - thanks Liz!:

What does a psychedelic fur sound like? Tasty, droning crossover riffs played out on a no-exit David Lynch highway to Samsara about 50 miles east of Bakersfield maybe? P Furs, as the name goofs you, are all about the crossover sensation. They formed up in the U.K. in1977, but were easily three decades ahead of their time – in an astringent, numbing way – when, at the height of punk - Richard Butler and brother Tim formed a DIY no-wave band. They fused pop and psychedelic, then turned it down a notch to create more commercial sounds that answered the question: What if David Bowie simultaneously decided to compose muzak and reject Brian Eno? The P Furs, were the answer. Thirty-five years on and they have outlasted other psychedelic revivals and resurrections such as Pink Floyd, the Killers and the Soup Dragons. We’ll see how the Horrors fare. Continued after the jump...
The P Furs cite The Velvet Underground as an influence. Their name suggests a psychedelic disconnect between the oral and the visual. The “Furs” part of their name not just grabs attention but implies a texture complicating the senses- consider drinking lotus juice from Meret Oppenheim’s teacup or licking the wall in “Get Him to the Greek.”
The P Furs sound, with roots in sitar but not raga, blend repeated, droning notes and major and open chords is essentially ambient noise accompanying profuse, yet meaningless lyrics. Their songs meet every condition of post-modernity. They are vastly rich and lush temporal fills with no arpeggio and nary a Sicilian chord or 4/4 beat to jar you back to the reality of your choice. Disconnected word pictures and metaphors not connected or related to anything make you uncertain when the record has ended or if it ever played outside your head. The P Furs would be ideal score for a film of Dom DeLillo’s “White Noise,” should it ever be made into a movie. Instead they scored Nic Cage in ‘Valley Girl’ once upon a time, proving that much of affect theory was, in fact, correct.
After taking off the millennial-angst 1990’s to make non-P Furs branded music, they are back on tour. The P Furs currently consist of 6 pieces-Richard Butler on vocals, Tim Butler on bass, Paul Garisto on drums, Richard Good on guitar, keyboardist Amanda Kramer and Mars Williams on electrified wind instruments.
The Furs have not released new material in a while, and I was apprehensive that rehashed old tunes would be–well, old. However, I hadn’t gotten tickets to the 3/22/12 Black Keys/Artic Monkeys show since: 1) the Black Keys don’t do it for me; 2) I was hoping the Monkeys would do another off tour Brooklyn show (sadly they did not) and; 3) I can’t stand Alex’s new look, so I found myself on 3/22/12 at the Furs gig in Westchester County, N.Y. .
The Furs concert was largely sold out to a crowd of mostly 40-ish and 50-ish white people and bored texting teens they had dragged along.
No matter and no warm up act- Richard Butler and crew burst onto the stage grinning ear to ear and launched into “Into You Like a Train,” followed by an equally energized Alice’s House. Butler still has his voice, often compared to John Rotten/Lydon’s, but then Butler’s voice was always mumbly and kind of gravelly and verging on shot and so apparently impenetrable to age. Butler’s vocals retain their sarcastic inflection and even his newly acquired beaming enthusiasm has a sardonic twist. He’s sort of satirizing the whole thing and himself in a non-mean spirited way. Butler still does that weird finger snappy thing, now almost parodying himself. He also still has the moves, a punkified Jagger, waving like a mockery of the Queen on her Silver Jubilee. Butler, at 55 years, is as or more limber than his contemporary, Madonna, contorting himself into low eagle and cow legged squats and draping himself across his band mates. Meanwhile, brother Tim lurks at the stage edge in sunglasses singing along sans microphone. Actually, at times I wondered if his bass was hooked up to an amplifier at all. They did inspire nostalgia without gagging or sounding stale, well maybe the texting teens disagree.
The drums acted as a foundational element to the night, always present but not overbearing.
Good’s volume was not turned up high enough to make a meaningful comparison to Furs’ former guitarist John Ashton (& I was standing in the balcony right over his head), but he did a fine job of strumming Furs covers, singing plugged in back-up vocals and encouraging the audience. Good made a perfect straight man to gesticulating Butler.
The diminutive Williams bouncily blared bluesy wind from electrified sax and clarinet. His energy level rivaled Butler’s as he merrily marched up and down the stage interacting with the audience and blowing his clarinet in the face of good-natured Good.
Kramer served as cool keyboard waif in sparkly high-heeled boots. Memo to self- buy.
The night’s set picked from the full range of the P Furs catalogue with songs from Mirror Moves; Forever Now; Talk, Talk, Talk; Midnight to Midnight, Book of Days and their namesake album. They also included recent and never released “After All,” which baffled a few in the audience struggling to sing along. Their biggest hit, Pretty In Pink, was positioned as third song up and of course got the biggest reaction from the audience and caused a forty-something lady with no shame to have a John Hughes-inspired-Hugh Grant-Music and Lyrics -moment. Props to Butler for being a good sport about it and ignoring her. Maybe that explains his sunglasses?
Imitation of Christ was a charm with Butler accompanying the song with cross charades. I prefer the slower droning songs from their self-titled, and would have preferred them to go in the direction of similar stony spinning dirges like India and Sister Europe but the mood of the evening was upbeat.
The Ghost In You and Heaven were crowd pleasers with couples swaying together and digging for their cialis. Butler’s tightrope walking during Highwire Days was a bit annoying but the crowd loved it. Their encore President Gas was probably chosen more for its peppy-poppy tempo than to be topical and was followed up by a samey sounding almost mash-up rendition of Forever Now. For a few minutes I wondered if they were doing a second President Gas. The band ended the night by Hi-5ing the audience who stormed the stage to the chagrin of the aggressive volunteer security staff of the Tarrytown Music Hall. It was good to see that the 40-50 something crowd was more alive than the surely younger one at the BK-Monkey MSG show who Alex Turner reportedly scolded for being lame. It was an enjoyable evening that should not have happened- after this I converted to Death Metal only- more on that later.
Local Westchester radio station, The Peak, 95.1?, sponsored the show.
The night’s set went like this:
Into You Like a Train
Alice’s House
Pretty In Pink
Only You and I
Imitation of Christ
It Goes On
The Ghost In You
After All
My Time
Highwire Days
Love My Way
Heartbreak Beat
President Gas
Forever Now
Psychedelic Furs online - official website / Facebook / Twitter


daisy said...

i enjoyed this, Liz. i liked your observations and information around the band
(I like the - maybe that explains the sunglasses bit - (there's always one, isn't there!) and memo to self.)

Anonymous said...

They also played 'Like A Stranger'. Perhaps you didn't notice but they kind of did a jam toward the end of 'President Gas' and then went back into it before playing 'Forever Now'. Not quite the mash-up that you described...

Anonymous said...

I dont like Alexs new look either and also want the boots.
Good article Liz!

Anonymous said...

Hey Liz, it's Moira. Wow, your review really makes me wish I could have caught this show. Your knowledge about the P-furs and about music in general is extensive...please keep me posted on everything you write...I enjoyed reading this!

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