My experience of Lawrence has always been one about exaggerations.
Back in 1980, as I was making a fanzine together with a good friend, we decided that we wanted to publish an interview with Lawrence about the Felt debut album “Crumbling the Antiseptic Beauty.” Alas, there was no Skype back then and we had already spent whatever money we had traveling to London to make interviews with other acts.
Instead, we managed to get an acquaintance of the band to make the interview and write the article for us. I remember being very unhappy when translating it into Swedish because it was just too full of superlatives. Felt were depicted as the most important thing to happen to music ever, more or less. Lawrence and guitarist Maurice Deebank were beings from another dimension.
Despite my feelings that we were losing credibility by publishing it, we went ahead in the end.
Listening to “Crumbling the Antiseptic Beauty” now, I find it very much easier to live with the exaggerated superlatives. This album has aged extremely well. Not only does Lawrence’s quite British take at lazy vocals and Maurice’s lyrical and ringing guitars work as very creative conduits for their Television influences, but the cymbal-less sound seems totally contemporary also today.
The exciting tension between Maurice’s classically influenced guitar playing and Lawrence’s pretentious yet shambolic outlook remains on subsequent releases; the predominantly instrumental “The Splendour of Fear” the masterly “The Strange Idols Pattern & Other Short Stories,” and Maurice’s final album – the uneven but partly jaw-droppingly brilliant “Ignite The Seven Cannons.”
If you don’t have this stuff already, now is the time to pick the albums up as they are being reissued by Cherry Red as a box set called “A Decade In Music.”
The box also contains a renamed version of Felt’s first attempt at music without Maurice, the instrumental, and misguidedly cheesy “Let The Snakes Crinkle Their Heads To Death”. Although a low point in Felt’s catalogue, interestingly, it serves as a bridge to Lawrence’s latest release with his current band the Go-Kart Mozarts, also now out on Cherry Red.
True to form, the press release accompanying “Mozart’s Mini-Mart” holds none of the hyperbole back. This time, we are told that: “This really is the most commercial set of songs Lawrence has ever released and it is definitely, absolutely the top most pop album of the year. It can’t be topped and it won’t be stopped!”
Ironically, given the fact that the band sound like they are using instruments bought in the titular mini mart, the overall sound sounds as dated now as that first Felt release without Maurice sounded then. The cheap electronic voice treatments certainly do nothing to change that impression…
But that is not necessarily to diminish the music, because what we have here is another wry and disillusioned look at modern life from the underside. The first song is called “Anagram of We Sold Apes”. What could that anagram be, you wonder? Opal Swedes? Your guess is as good as mine.
Here are songs about depression, alcoholism, trying to not further into poverty, not having sex, more poverty… Lawrence portrays his characters as ultimate losers but it doesn’t make his observations less relevant or less biting.
Not really top most pop. But when Lawrence sings about stuff that is too awkward to sing about, you can’t help but thinking that all this fake stuff is very much what reality is made of.
So, who knows? Today I don’t agree, but maybe I will look back at the exaggerations in the press release a couple of decades from now and nod my head. Could it be that Lawrence is really ahead of his time again?