As with last year's A Darker Bloom (which compiled the Blue Orchids back catalogue), this compilation is both a good primer to the band in question AND tends to focus on one of their albums over others (As A Darker Bloom focused on the only 80s Orchids album, Stains on a Decade focuses on Bubblegum Perfume. The last eight tracks stem from this- which is odd as there's nought from 1986's masterpiece Forever Breathes the Lonely Word & other Felt albums such as Train Above the City, Me & the Monkey on the Moon, Let the Snakes Crinkle...& Pictorial Jackson Review etc...A more cohesive career overview remains on the two volume Absolute Classic Masterpieces-compilation; though I'd get this & if you like (how could you not?) , then get the ten Felt albums being reissued two a month by Cherry Red...
Despite my criticism, these 15 tracks show why Felt were one of the great acts of the 1980s- Lawrence with guitarist Martin Deebank & later Primal Scream keyboard player Martin Duffy created some of the greatest cult pop of all time. Felt remain enigmatic and very individual, partly due to their isolated (in Birmingham/loathing the decade they were in- the 80s) status. But if you like bands such as The Auteurs, Belle&Sebastian,Black Box Recorder, Blue Orchids, Durutti Column, The Fall (in thoughtful mode- eg Disney's Dream Debased,Living Too Late),Go Betweens, Josef-K, You Can't Hide Your Love Forever-Orange Juice, The Only Ones, early Pulp or Television's Little Johnny Jewel, you should adore Felt! I think they were easily as great & as prolific (or more?)as Cocteau Twins or The Smiths
The titles alone are suitably wonderful- Trails of Colour Dissolve, Dismantled King is off the Throne, I Will Die with My Head in Flames etc- from such wonderful albums as The Strange Idols Pattern & Other Short Stories, Ignite the Seven Cannons, Crumbling the Antiseptic Beauty, The Splendours of Fear & Bubblegum Perfume. Ballad of the Band remains a great moment- familiar to the many who owned the cheap Creation compilation 'Doing It for the Kids' (which also featured The House of Love, Primal Scream & MBV). Space Blues is another great track- referenced by Duffy et al on Primal Scream's latest album Evil Heat (2002). The track that remains my favourite is Primitive Painters, which sounds like the meeting point of Cocteau Twins & The Fall- the contrast between Lawrence's vocals & Liz Fraser's divine tones predicts Simon Raymonde's Marry Me (found on the brilliant Bella-Union compilation 'At Least...with a Smile on my face'). You have to love those non-singers- Tom Verlaine, Martin Bramah, Mark E Smith, Lou Reed,Nico etc- & Lawrence Hayward is up there with the best of them.
Stains on a Decade is a great primer regarding the joys of Felt, probably a the perfect introduction; it could have been sourced from the many albums in a more balanced way, but that doesn't make the tracks any less wonderful. More than worth buying, as is Lawrence's post-Felt work, Denim & Go Kart Mozart.
on 12 March 2007
In addition to the perceptive review by JA Parkes below, 'Stains on a Decade' is a collection of singles and b-sides by and such does share a lot in common with 'Bubblegum Perfume', a compilation of much older vintage and not a studio album. There isn't really a perfect Felt primer, although this is a good start. Better would be to buy 'The Strange Idol...' Lp and go on to albums from there, although the instrumental sets 'Let the Snakes...' and 'Train Above The City' are for hardcore fans only.