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Vinyl Tap: The Psychedelic Furs – Talk Talk Talk

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I get a new turntable and dust off some old records. Vinyl Tap #55:

    There's conversation
    And conversation
    Talk about yourself again
    Talk about the rain again
    Another lie for you
    Another point of view
    How can you believe in them?
    Don't believe in anything…
    –"No Tears"

This isn’t your mother’s Psychedelic Furs. But isn’t it pretty to think that the snarling and scabrous “Pretty in Pink” — about a perennial wallflower who “lives in the place in the side of our lives where nothing is ever put straight” — could be toned down and turned into a title hit relatively tame enough to nearly evoke crinoline and curtsies conceivably befitting the 1986 John Hughes/Molly Ringwald movie it fronted?

Then again, as we are reminded in the no-bones “Into You Like a Train,” “I don't wanna … celebrate your prettiness…”

Insidiously snarling, all bile and bite, the Psychedelic Furs Talk Talk Talk is a raw and rough-edged masterwork produced by Steve Lillywhite to elicit — to most select effect — Richard Butler’s vocal rasp and the instrumental rev and overdrive of John Ashton and Roger Morris (Guitars), Duncan Kilburn (Horns, Keyboards), Tim Butler (Bass), and Vince Ely (Drums, Percussion).

Actually, “Pretty in Pink,” with a titular subject who engages in crazy-endearing antics and “loses herself in her dreaming and sleep,” has a bittersweet savor amongst its lilting raucousness. But it also establishes for Talk Talk Talk a complex pattern — even mixed signals at times —  between it’s hard-edged stuff and its… well – slightly less hard-edged songs, which includes its languid and melodic Roxy Music-styled “She is Mine,” and “No Tears,” which is REM tinged, of the Byrdsian jangly variety, to assure us to not “believe in anything / no colours, no tears…”

Beyond the melancholic murmur — the "Balk Balk Balk," if you will — the Furs are on solid, yet even more cynical and non-romantic ground on the rest of the album, when the punk rock roots of the group comes through more loudly and clearly, and anger becomes power with propulsive and pounding manic thrills. The relentlessly-charging standout “Into You Like a Train,” for instance, races with downhill runaway force, after starting with a mission statement from the depths of a mocking, dark heart, before intensifying the course.

    No kind of love

    No kind of love

    I don't wanna make no scene
    Lovers come and go
    Or make you Mrs. anyone
    Or make you mister me

    I’m into you like a train
    Into you like a train
    Into you like a train
    Yeah fall in love
    Yeah fall in love…

Leave Talk Talk Talk on for the next few tracks and you’ll get a powerhouse trio of palpitation-escalation tunes. “It Goes On” is anchored to a heart-stopping percussive drive, while “So Run Down” gains its power from its vocal snap and garrulousness, and “I Wanna Sleep with You” with its kaleidoscopic swirl and frenetic pace.
If Dylan’s Mr. Jones knew “something is happening here / But [he didn’t know] what it is,” the Psychedelic Furs’ title hero in their spotlight track “Mr. Jones” — the production is perhaps the album’s best for its crisp give-and-take instrumentation and upfront vocals — fares a lot better for being self-assured and in-the-know, the go-to guy who “can turn you on and turn you off again / Mr. Jones is all of you who live inside a plan.” 

Perhaps the kind of long-term plans the Psychedelic Furs — despite subsequent personnel and career shake-ups and break-ups — might have set for themselves. As for such summits of success as Talk Talk Talk, however — which sees the group gimmick-free, void of novelties and flash-in-the-pan curios and oddball instruments — the group, sounding as good now as it did then, stands a the test of time with its timeless sound. And lack of Flock of Seagulls-like haircuts.

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About Gordon Hauptfleisch

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