For a long time now, Hollywood has been having a love affair with The Psychedelic Furs. Want proof? Look no further than last year’s critical darling Call Me by Your Name. Set in 1983, the 2017 indie film features a signature party scene in which Oliver (Armie Hammer) and Elio (Timothee Chalamet) end up on the dance floor while moving to the sounds of “Love My Way” by — that’s right — The Psychedelic Furs. In an ironic twist, the opening line of that song is “There’s an army on the dance floor…” and indeed, there is… actor Armie Hammer.
The 1980s produced a richly varied musical landscape. So how does a band that charted only one Top 40 hit in the U.S. (“Heartbreak Beat” which peaked at number 26) become the movie industry’s go-to group when referencing the era-defining post-punk, English New Wave sound? The answer starts with the vocals of Richard Butler. Hollywood knows if you want to transport an audience back to the 1980s, you can’t go wrong with that soulful, raspy-voiced frontman, whose singing crosses generational boundaries with a romanticism that’s remarkably timeless.
More than anything, movie lovers may associate The Psychedelic Furs with the title track to the John Hughes flick Pretty in Pink (1986) which includes a refreshed version of the song initially released on the band’s LP Talk Talk Talk (1981). Fair enough. The soundtrack is widely regarded as one of the best soundtracks in movie history. None other than Rolling Stone lists the release as one of the “25 Greatest Soundtracks of All Time.”
But look at how many other great soundtracks the band has graced: Valley Girl (1983), Some Kind of Wonderful (1987), Basquiat (1996), The Wedding Singer (1998), and This Is Where I Leave You (2014) to name a few. And that’s not even including deft inclusion in television episodes of hits like Gilmore Girls, Glee, and Stranger Things. Somehow, this band captures moods ranging from hopeful heartache to jacked irritation in a way that never gets tired. Which songs pop up the most? The aforementioned “Pretty in Pink” and “Love My Way,” as well as “The Ghost in You.”
But Psychedelic Fur fans know this band is better than just some moody background music. So when, after a decade-long hiatus, the group reformed and started touring again in 2001, the eager crowds came out in droves large enough to ensure the Furs would be steadily on the road ever since. In its current incarnation, original members Richard Butler and bassist Tim Butler are now backed by guitarist Rich Good, drummer Paul Garisto, keyboardist Amanda Kramer of Information Society, and saxophonist Mars Williams of The Waitresses — another band long overdue for a renaissance.
Earlier this month, The Furs made a stop at the world-famous Troubadour in Hollywood and you can rest assured that they did not disappoint in concert. Butler, whose vocals have matured yet still manage to transport you back in time, proves a charismatic front man and a gracious host. He seems generally surprised to see that people have come out to hear him sing, and he’s happy to deliver. Besides the soundtrack fare, The Furs blast out classics such as “Heaven,” Heartbreak Beat,” “President Gas,” “Dumb Waiters,” and “Until She Comes” on their setlist. Deeper cuts like “Here Comes Cowboys” and “Like a Stranger” will leave you wondering why this band didn’t have a string of multi-platinum records. Be that as it may, The Furs will be back on the road this summer, primarily in the UK and on the West Coast. Don’t miss them. No big screen required.