Of all the most strangely enigmatic groups to exist, Felt has got to be in the top 10 or so. Helmed by the equally mysterious Lawrence (aka Lawrence Hayward), they crafted a brand of music that started as minimalist “art rock” (their first single was simply Lawrence banging on a guitar and moaning into a tape recorder) and evolved into lush and intricate pop that dabbled in folk, dance and jazz.
Lawrence’s vision was to produce ten albums and ten singles in ten years, which he did, and then broke up the band. So absolute was his power that, according to legend, he dismissed an early drummer for having curly hair, albums could only have an even numbers of songs (which isn’t always the case, but mostly) and there are absolutely no cymbals on any of the first three albums. And yet having said that, their album Train Above the City is an instrumental album of essentially lounge jazz workouts where he performed in absolutely no capacity – but did name all the songs.
Their first several albums, including their most popular (and somewhat least interesting), Ignite the Seven Cannons, were released on the Cherry Red label. But mid-career until nearly the end, including the aforementioned Train Above the City, everything came out on Creation.
Three of their most brilliant albums are Forever Breathes the Lonely World (1986), Poem of the River (1987) and The Pictorial Jackson Review (1988), when the elaborate noodling of classically trained guitarist Maurice Deebank was replaced by the sweeping organs of Martin Duffy (later of Primal Scream fame). Imagine the Cocteau Twins, musically, with Lou Reed on vocals and you’ve pretty much got the sound of Felt. But don’t let that run you off, because while Lawrence’s voice is rather deadpan, it’s also highly expressive and he gets into your head (and heart) before you know it.