Remembering some old Furniture

When I was at school, I had a couple of close friends, Neil and Michael. We all had very similar tastes in music, and we’d often hang out at each other’s houses, listening to our favourite songs and enthusiastically sharing our discoveries with each other. A particular favourite was this absolute banger, which for a while formed a little ritual – at the beginning of every meetup, we’d play it. 🙂

We all owned it in different formats – I had the cassette single, Neil had it on CD and Michael had the 12″ vinyl, if I remember correctly. This means we had a good selection of mixes of this track between us.

Anyway, among the bands we liked was the relatively obscure British indie group, Furniture. You may have heard of them for their one big hit, Brilliant Mind, which was played all over the place in the mid-eighties. It leads people to think that Furniture were a one-hit wonder, but they were actually active for a pretty long period – 1979 to 1991, in fact. In that twelve years, though, they only released three albums. They were all superb, and it’s a real shame the group never produced any more. It was quite hard to find out much about what was going on behind the scenes in music those days, unless you were lucky enough to find your favourite bands featured in NME, Melody Maker or one of the other magazines of the day. We discovered enough at the time to know that Furniture’s main barrier to success was some serious misfortune, and their Wikipedia entry confirms this:

The longest-serving and best-known line-up of Furniture (from 1983 to 1990), comprised founder members Jim Irvin (vocals), singer/multi-instrumentalist Tim Whelan and drummer Hamilton Lee, plus bass player/occasional singer Sally Still and keyboard player Maya Gilder. Larry N’Azone (saxophone) was an occasional member during this period and often appeared with the band live. Furniture’s chief success was in the UK but they also enjoyed a following throughout Eastern Europe where they toured in 1987 and 1988.

Since the break-up of the band, Furniture has retained a certain cult appeal, partly due to a continuing high reputation for songwriting and partly due to the nature of the band’s career. Noted for the bad luck and practical frustration that prevented them from making a long term-breakthrough, Furniture have been described as “one of the most unfortunate of bands, and a salutory lesson for any young hopefuls being courted by minor labels.”

Given some of the absolute shite that made it into the charts in the late eighties, it strikes me as a crying shame that really talented bands like Furniture never did better, and effectively had to call it a day because it was too difficult for the members of the band to make a living. Their songwriting was absolutely fantastic, with often brooding and melancholic lyrics that would easily make Morrissey look positively cheerful. They sounded timeless and classic, with well-produced songs fusing all sorts of musical styles. I’d almost completely forgotten about them, but when I was on holiday recently, I did some browsing and rediscovered some of their best work. I’d like to share some of it with you. No need to thank me.

Slow Motion Kisses

I really love the laid-back, slow vibe of this, combined with some seriously erotic lyrics and arty, slightly disturbing video. It smacks of how timeless a lot of Furniture’s work was. It came towards the end of their career, and is a track on their final album, Food, Sex and Paranoia. I guess this has the sex part covered! Released in 1990, I think it’s aged fantastically well, unlike a lot of the pop released at the time, which sounds painfully cheesy these days.

On A Slow Fuse

Furniture at their most miserably brilliant, telling the sorry tale of a doomed, destructive relationship. I wonder if it’s biographical? If it is, given the gloomy nature of many of their other songs, whoever wrote this has really suffered.

She Gets Out The Scrapbook

Did we really live like this? Did we really, really live like this? Good question.

Plenty more doomed-relationship-angst here.

One Step Behind You

Love the absolutely thumping bassline on this – does it not slap, my friends? Lyrics are an intense look at obsession and the whole thing is just fantastic. This has actually been covered a couple of times, a tribute to how good Furniture’s songwriting was.

I Miss You and Brilliant Mind (live on The Tube, 1986)

Really glad I was able to find a genuine live performance here – if anyone invents time travel, this is a band I’d give anything to see. “All of my senses ache, I’ve taken to drinking…” – ouch! Feel that raw pain! Brilliant stuff. Followed up by a performance of the one song everyone remembers them for. Shame it’s far from their best, but hey.

Anyway, I really enjoyed listening to these great tracks for the first time in years. It was enough to get me straight onto Discogs – there’s a copy of Food, Sex & Paranoia on vinyl in the mail to me as we speak.

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