Category: Lawrence

Felt: The Final Resting Of The Ark

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Creation 1987.  CRE048T

Discogs

This is an absolutely beautiful single, one of the highlights of the band’s time on Creation.  It was the ninth of the ten they released as part of Lawrence’s vision of ten albums and ten singles in ten years, and like several of his other releases is very short; five tracks clocking in at less than ten minutes.  In a way, it’s even shorter than it seems because three of the tracks are instrumental ditties, leaving only two for real songs, but what songs they are; delicate masterpieces both. The three short instrumentals were produced by the Cocteau Twins’ Robin Guthrie; his influence is very obvious. I’m not sure anyone would have paid attention to these tracks were they not by Felt, but I really like them. It’s a side to his work which is often criticised which I think is unfair, but it’s true that at first listen they are a bit like acoustic wallpaper. Their worth becomes more obvious the more you listen to them.

The title track has appeared here before, and is currently available on several Felt compilations, e.g. Absolute Classic Masterpieces Vol II and Goldmine Trash.

Go-Kart Mozart: New World In The Morning

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West Midlands Records 2012.  GLUM2

Discogs

Another post about the eccentric ex Felt frontman, Lawrence, this time his third band, Go-Kart Mozart.  When Lawrence disbanded Felt, he started making music in a very 70s kitsch style kicking off with Denim’s first album Back In Denim.  Since then, he’s been ploughing a very similar furrow with mixed results.  I really think it’s time he moved on, but Lawrence’s artistic motivations are always hard to fathom.

This is a 7″ single which appeared at Record Store Day last year, so is already deleted.  The A side is lifted from the Lawrence biopic Lawrence Of Belgravia and is a cover of New World In The Morning, originally recorded by whistling housewives’ favourite of the 70s, Roger Whittaker.   It’s easy to laugh at Roger Whittaker, but this is actually a pretty good song and it works well with Lawrence’s 70s stylings.  The B side is nuts even by Lawrence’s standards; it takes longer to say the title Gizmos, Gadgets, Unrock, Electric Guitar Clock Tick Tock than it does to play the track which clocks in at only 1 minute.  Actually very short songs are something Lawrence has explored before to good effect – pop music should use them more.  No repetition and verse/chorus/verse structures to bore you – just a quick romp through and end.  What this song is about is anyone’s guess, but Lawrence always had a knack for making strings of nonsense sound good.

Denim: Back In Denim

Denim - Back In Denim

Boys Own Recordings 1992. 828 349-2

Discogs

I’m surprised to be posting this.  There’s been a Cherry Red re-issue and a good deal of interest in Lawrence recently so I thought this would be kept available, but it seems not.

If you’re not familiar with Denim, it’s the band formed by Felt’s Lawrence after he disbanded Felt.  I remember being very excited about it, and I bought it the day it came out.  What I heard astonished me; the whole album is a homage to the 70s, both stylistically and lyrically and couldn’t have been a bigger departure from his work with Felt.  Remember that the 70s were not cool at all in 1992.  Most people were old enough to remember the decade and were more than a little embarrassed about it, at least the pre-punk bit which is what Lawrence is so interested in here.  Of course being Lawrence it’s brilliantly done – only he could have got away with singing about the Osmonds to a thumping glitter beat in 1992.

Predictably though, it didn’t sell well.  Lawrence is often described as being both ahead of his time, but also outside it, and this album is a good example of exactly that.  The revival of 70s culture was some years off, but when it came, it certainly wasn’t done like this.  It alienated Felt fans, and was too, well, weird for everyone else.  Perhaps being on a major for the first time in Lawrence’s career didn’t help.

It started a rather tragic journey for Lawrence, at least that’s how it seemed to me.   Everything he recorded from that moment was a variation on this same theme.  It was as though he knew it was brilliant and was going to keep releasing more of the stuff until people got it.  The problem of course is that people never did get it, and the quality of what he was doing, while always worth listening to, was never as good as this first attempt.

The album was apparently produced by John Leckie to begin with but Lawrence proved impossible to work with and he pulled out.  He said Lawrence was the most difficult musician he had ever encountered – and for someone with a CV as long as Leckie’s, that’s saying something.

This album is one of popular music’s forgotten bonkers classics.  It is the work of a madman, but a very talented madman.

Felt: Box1

feltboxfront

There’s been a resurgence of interest in Felt lately, partly because they were brilliant, but also because of the Lawrence biopic Lawrence Of Belgravia.  Lawrence, for the uninitiated was Felt’s brilliantly eccentric frontman, writer, and and svengali-like presence.  The film is well made, but because I never saw Felt live, or Lawrence in any other capacity for that matter, I found the whole experience hard to take.  It’s not just that Felt’s music is beautiful, although it is, it’s that Lawrence’s keen, even overdeveloped sense of aesthetics is stamped all over everything they did, so to see him in the film painfully emaciated, wearing a baseball cap he’s barely taken off for the last decade was difficult to take.  The man himself did a Q&A session afterwards, but his tragic presence and thick Brummy accent meant I could hardly bear to stay in the room, never mind ask him a question.

Cherry Red are doing a belated re-issue of Felt’s back catalogue; particularly welcome is the later Creation stuff which disappeared when Alan McGee closed the label down. I’m not into posting commercially available music at the best of times, much less when the musician in question is more-or-less destitute, so the 10 albums and 10 singles he delivered as promised in 10 years will remain on my hard drive, for my ears only. However Cherry Red haven’t been as thorough as they might have been with Felt – they’ve done the ten albums and a few compilations, but that misses a few bits and pieces which are well worth having. Felt justifies one of those lavish boxed sets people like me tend to buy, but no sign of that yet.

So, in the meantime, here’s a bit of a curio. In 1993 Cherry Red issued a boxed set of all Felt’s albums for the label, imaginatively titled Box. It came with a short bonus disc of non-album tracks. Box was deleted long ago and is now quite rare. As far as I can tell, none of the tracks have been re-issued, so here it is.

The tracks are:
1  Something Sends Me To Sleep (Single: Cherry26 – 3:07)
2  My Face Is On Fire (Single: Cherry45 – 3:05)
3  Sunlight Bathed The Golden Glow (Single Version – 3:13)
4  Sunlight Strings (B-2 of Single – 3:14)
5  Red Indians (Single Version – 1:50)

Further listening: well obviously you should buy everything Cherry Red have re-issued, but if you don’t want that much Felt, Ignite The Seven Cannons is a favourite, and I have a particular soft spot for Poem Of The River which is worth getting just for the wonderfully uplifting Riding On The Equator.  Felt also worked well as a singles band, so any of the compilations are worth a go, especially Stains On A Decade which is the only one covering all the labels they recorded for.