Sunday, 5 February 2012
30 years on: Felt's Crumbling The Antiseptic Beauty
In a decade of fey make-up boys and the gated snare, Felt's approach to record making had seemed positively antique - sumptuous, sculptured guitar melodies housed in sleeves that owed more to Barnett Newman than Gary Numan. Their first album was called Crumbling The Antiseptic Beauty, a statement of intent in itself.
Felt had a rare air of mystery. Gigs were infrequent, some were in virtual darkness. As the decade wore on, odd stories about Lawrence snuck out. Apparently he was obsessively clean. A friend once stayed in his Birmingham apartment and woke up at 3am to hear scratching noises under the bed. Expecting to see a mouse he was shocked to see Lawrence with a dustpan and brush. Pete Becker of fellow West Midlanders Eyeless In Gaza claimed that, when Lawrence took him to gigs, he always drove in second gear. He was deadpan, dead pale, and once claimed he would become the first person in the world to die of boredom. All my girlfriends were in love with him.
Deebank became a part of Felt. "I thought, God, I could really go somewhere with this kid. Ride on his back to the top, that's how I saw it." Initially, there were constant arguments. "They were always about clothes and drinking. I told him he would have to change his entire wardrobe. Sometimes he'd get drunk and go off down motorways, disappear for two days. Or he'd go round this big mental hospital with this other kid, after they'd been in the pub. One of those dark Victorian things. When you were a kid you lived in fear that someone would escape and break into your bedroom. Deebank used to go there and walk around the wards at night for a dare. He'd come back from those trips and every time I'd say 'we're finished, you're not serious about this.'"
A critical hit - Sounds' 5 star review was enough to get me to buy it without hearing a note - Crumbling The Antiseptic Beauty instead created a small but dedicated core of Felt fans which would grow incrementally over the decade. In 1987, Lawrence found his image in a Smash Hits sticker collection. Suicidally, he chose to capitalise on this good fortune with an album of instrumentals called Let The Snakes Crinkle Their Heads To Death. "I remember taking the album artwork to Creation, really confidently, and Bobby Gillespie (of Primal Scream) was there. He said 'You're not really going to call it that are you?' I said yeah, it's a great title. He said 'Crinkle? What the hell's crinkle?' I realised I'd made the worst mistake. It was the worst title in the world."
Now, as then, Lawrence is childlike in his enthusiasm, and meticulous in his planning, even if genuine stardom seems as far away as it did in 1982. "I thought we could invent a new form of music. I really believed we could. Now I know it's practically impossible, but that was the kind of ambition we had."
Posted by Bob Stanley at Sunday, February 05, 2012