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Definitive Albums: Felt "Forever Breathes the Lonely Word" (1986) Rating

Rise of the Organ Grinder

Felt are, for many, synonymous with their jangling guitars; the chiming six-strings of figurehead/leader Lawrence Hayward (billed, always, simply as Lawrence) and, first, Maurice Deebank, engaging in dueling, fingerpicking patterns inspired by Television's Tom Verlaine and Richard Lloyd.

But, yet, the record regularly cited as their magnum opus —1986's Forever Breathes the Lonely Word— finds a different dominant instrument: the electric organ of Martin Duffy.

There's organ drawled all over the sixth Felt LP; busy fingers throws fistfuls of chords at the band's fey indie-pop, burying the jangle of Hayward and Deebank's successor, Tony Willé, under churchy sounds. At one numerous points, Duffy even takes a solo, bringing the specter of prog-rock to a band that, for all their lustrous romance, were post-punks at heart.


Felt were born in the midst of that post-punk explosion; forged in the fires of staunch DIY practice and happy amateurism. Hayward recorded the first-ever Felt single, "Index," on a portable cassette player; the lo-fi fug and primitive assemblage only adding to the myth of this Birmingham youth summoning the sounds of the bowery, drawing from Television, Patti Smith, the Modern Lovers, and the Velvet Underground.

As Felt grew into a real band, their quickly-turned-out records grew more ambitious, more sumptuous; with the addition of Duffy adding most to that. Felt were into churning out records, and early in 1986 they released an instrumental set called Let the Snakes Crinkle Their Heads to Death.

It effectively rewrote perceptions on the band; though there had always been instrumental Felt songs on all their albums, they were understand as Hayward's project, his vision. But, heard wholly instrumental, they almost sounded more like Duffy's.

When Forever Breathes the Lonely Word followed Let the Snakes Crinkle Their Heads to Death, it was its own first: the first Felt record to feature no instrumentals. It also brought an equilibrium to the band; the classical picking of Willé, the organ frills of Duffy, and the lyrical wit of Hayward in wondrous concert.

"I'm not your Jesus/so would you get off my cross," Hayward sing-speaks, mid "A Wave Crashed on Rocks," and there's plenty more of that lyrical wit across the LP. Hayward is intrigued with the tragedy of his own shortcomings, the tragedy of death's inevitability, and the tragedy of pining romanticism. Forever Breathes the Lonely Word sounds, at times, so tragically romantic that its about to faint; but the patterns of unending jangling and Duffy's giddy organ never allow heads to get too hot.

Record Label: Creation
Release Date: October, 1986

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