Song of the Day: Felt “Primitive Painters”
Felt was the musical project of enigmatic singer/songwriter Lawrence Hayward. Throughout the life of the project, Hayward maintained his musical and aesthetic obsessions with Tom Verlaine and Television, in his studiously imperfect sing-speak vocals and the intricate guitar interplay with his classically-trained bandmate (and childhood friend) Maurice Deebank. From the bedroom-produced debut single, “Index,” in 1979 to the accomplished final studio album, Me and a Monkey on the Moon, in 1989, Felt produced a rich (and richly-titled) discography (ten albums and a clutch of singles), split evenly between indie labels Cherry Red and (now defunct) Creation Records. Indicative of Hayward’s precise attention to detail and exercised level of control, Felt had a prescribed timeline and output: Ten years, ten records, then break up the band.
Cherry Red Records have reissued the band’s first five albums (Crumbling The Antiseptic Beauty, The Splendour Of Fear, The Strange Idols Pattern And Other Short Stories, Ignite The Seven Cannons, and The Seventeenth Century) in deluxe gatefold vinyl and bespoke CD + 7″ vinyl formats. Personally “remastered and revisited” by Hayward himself, Cherry Red boasts “[Lawrence] has fashioned the ultimate definitive collections.”
Building upon the artistic successes of the first three albums, Felt enlisted Robin Guthrie (Cocteau Twins) to produce the fourth studio album Ignite The Seven Cannons in 1985. While the full-length album yields somewhat mixed results — swirling where once direct, Guthrie buries the rich guitar work in his trademark atmospheric production — the Deebank-penned “Primitive Painters” became one of Felt’s best-known songs and most successful single.
“Primitive Painters” reached the top of the UK independent singles chart upon initial release and has since gained true indie classic status. Guthrie’s bandmate Elizabeth Fraser features prominently as backing vocalist on this dreamy, charming indie-pop confection. Substituting trademark guitar for vocal interplay, Hayward and Fraser sing-speak and wail, respectively, over Deebank’s spiraling leads and shimmering keyboards played by Martin Duffy (later of Primal Scream). Self-consciously epic, “Primitive Painters” stands as a singular statement in the indie pop canon and a perfect entry point into a rewarding exploration of the Felt discography.