Felt - Crumbling The Antiseptic Beauty, by Todd E. Jones
Felt are one of the most respected, yet most unknown bands in indie-pop history. In the 80s, Felt (and their enigmatic leader, Lawrence) planned to release 10 albums and 10 singles in 10 years. Through Cherry Red Records, El Records, and Creation Records, the band from Birmingham succeeded. Inspired by a Television song, Felt were known for mixing poetry with interesting guitar-driven (and sometimes organ-driven) music. In the beginning, the classic guitar work of Maurice Deebank added beauty to their music but Lawrence was always considered the leader. After Creation Records fell apart, the Creation recordings by Felt (Forever Breathes The Lonely Word, Poem By The River, etc.) were out of print. Many of these CDs and LPs were being sold on Ebay.com for an absurd amount of money. Lawrence went on to form Denim and then, Go-Kart Mozart. The serious music of Felt was a thing of the past.
In 2004, Cherry Red Records are now re-releasing every single Felt album with the original artwork. The first CD in the series is Crumbling The Antiseptic Beauty. Like a mini-album, the CD packet is a delicate folded sleeve with original artwork and an interesting photo inside. In the early days of Felt, their music consisted of elegant, classical guitar work by Maurice Deebank and drowned-out poetic singing by Lawrence. Only 6 songs long, Crumbling The Antiseptic Beauty is a dark yet beautiful album.
Evergreen Dazed is an instrumental track that opens up the CD. The timeless quality of the guitar work is simply beautiful, creating a Sunday morning atmosphere of class and elegance. No drums and no singing; just beautiful guitars.
Fortune is a slow, depressing track with drowned out vocals by Lawrence. The female backing vocals (from the original single) are missing. This unpolished LP version is not as good but there is still a beauty to the track. Maurice Deebanks guitar work is elegant. This is not a catchy song at all but after a couple of listens, the deep lyrics and strong guitar melodies stay inside the listeners mind.
Without a doubt, Cathedral is the most beautiful and most memorable song on the album. The pounding drums that eventually turn into an ethereal rolling rhythm complement the jangling guitars. There is a strength in Lawrences lyrics, especially in the first verse where he sings:
When the choice is mine I hope I make it / When the chance comes by the time is right / Door in the wall I see it open
With midnight gothic quality, the song truly is a classic Felt track.
I Worship The Sun is a surf track, and comes out of leftfield but maintains the solemn atmosphere of the album. The rolling drums and the surf guitar create an eerie yet cool groove. There is no repeating chorus here; instead the track changes drastically. It actually slows down to a creeping pace, before picking up again to the usual surf tempo. Although Lawrence has stated that he does not like the mixing of this song, it remains one of the most unique Felt tracks in existence.
The final track, Templeroy, is a long, slow track that has some unintelligible vocals towards the end. While there is an eerie and ambient atmosphere created, the song simply doesn't have the same strength as the others.
Although other LPs like Forever Breathes The Lonely Word, The Pictorial Jackson Review, or Ignite The Seven Cannons might provide more accessible entry points, Crumbling The Antiseptic Beauty is short and sweet, elegant yet sad, and has a timeless quality. Perhaps this album is more for die-hard Felt fans that want an introspective look at the band in their early stages, but while the title does have a somewhat pretentious feel, the music is beautiful, sad, and powerful. Crumbling The Antiseptic Beauty marks a wonderful beginning to Felts 10 year / 10 album career.