on 8 April 2016
With the 1986 UK hit Brilliant Mind, and the release of the excellent album The Wrong People, it seemed as though Furniture were on the way to success. However, their label Stiff soon went bankrupt, and the band lost their momentum trying to break free of that contract. Afterwards, they signed to Arista, releasing Food, Sex & Paranoia in 1989. Sadly, it wasn't a commercial success, and the band wound down in 1991. The undeserving lack of success, largely caused by an internal upheaval at Arista, eclipsed an excellent album which showed the band developing their sound further.
The most evident feature of Mike Thorne's production on the album is the reverb. His full-bodied style helps bring out the album's sinister edge, and create a general atmosphere that could be described as mystical. The album also uses instruments not usually associated with Western pop music, though the band never use these excessively - Food, Sex & Paranoia is very much a new wave-fused pop album at heart. The band sound tighter than ever, the songs are interesting and varied, and the lyrics alluring and serious. Although the album doesn't quite have the melodic sound and candid nature of The Wrong People, it very much stands on its own equally worthy characteristics and merits instead.
The opener One Step Behind You sets the tone nicely – like the entire album, it is stylish and polished in its sound, and very captivating at heart. It propels along nicely with an infectious chorus and spirited vocal from Jim Irvin. Slow Motion Kisses is as passionate and sensuous as its title suggests. Both tracks were singles and should have been hits. Swing Tender is the one track that makes the most use of the more unusual instrumentation, which compliment the song's rather mysterious and brooding feel. While it isn't the most instantly accessible song, it certainly reveals its qualities after a few listens. A Plot to Kill What Was is similar in its sound - dark and assertive, and makes for another fine track, as does the sharp and impassioned A Taste of You.
A stand-out is On a Slow Fuse, with its jazzy undertones, slick guitar shimmers and intimate vocal. Subway to the Beach, by contrast, is bordering more on indie-pop, with an untethered synthesiser melody boosting the song's feverish, snappish edge. Another highlight is Song for a Doberman, a delightful number sung by bassist Sally Still. The use of a female perspective adds a nice touch to the album, while Tim Whelan's wonderfully expressive lyrics seal the deal. The same can be said for the outstanding Love Me. My personal favourite, this song perfectly combines the key ingredients of the album. The song's striking, embracing sound matches an equally strong lyric that Irvin portrays with honest yearning.
The album's CD version has an extended rather than the standard LP/cassette version of Friend of a Friend. This is a nice, solid album track - somewhat more straightforward sounding than many of the others, with a nice gentle atmosphere too. The closer Hard to Say is led by heartwrenching piano, opening up the opportunity for another of Irvin's intimate, emotive vocal performance. The grieving message, and reflective nature of the song, makes for a haunting finish.
It's a crying shame the album wasn't recognised upon release as the songwriting, performance and production are first-rate, creating a powerful, often soul-stirring album that is as expressive as it is atmospheric. An intelligently written collection, this now out-of-print album is worth finding. While The Wrong People is the best Furniture album to start with, those eager to explore more of their work, or for those who enjoy the sophisticated side of 1980s pop, will find much to enjoy here. Food, Sex & Paranoia is a fine, passionate collection, dressed in a mixture of art pop, sophisti-pop, and new wave.