Crumbling the Antiseptic Beauty
Cherry Red, 1982

It’s probably an overstatement to call Felt a cult band. Even during their 10-year existence, the British band didn’t sell many records, and in a time before the internet made imports less exotic, few of those made it Stateside. Stuart Murdoch (of Belle and Sebastian) may have professed his love for Felt, but his endorsement hasn’t exactly conjured a renaissance of interest. Cherry Red reissued most of the group’s records in 2003, but no doubt there’s a stock room somewhere full of them.

Felt’s lack of stature, though, is in no way diminutive of the great records they created. And despite the lack of commercial success, the band made plenty of them. During their tenure, they released seven full-lengths and six EPs, their preferred format, splitting their time between Cherry Red and Creation. And while leading man Lawrence Hayward certainly had an obvious predilection for Tom Verlaine and Television, Felt precipitated much of what would be heard in England in the coming years, trace elements of Smiths-style pop and shoegaze all to be found in their output.

After a self-released single and another for Cherry Red, in 1982 the group, which at this point also included classically trained guitarist Maurice Deebank, drummer Gary Ainge and bass player Nick Gilbert, released Crumbling the Antiseptic Beauty, a 30-minutes long EP. While many believe that Felt only blossomed later—and sure, in some ways they did—this record is a perfect study in mood, temperance and minimalism.

Beginning with “Evergreen Dazed,” an instrumental interplay between Lawrence’s gilded acoustic and Deebank’s chiming electric extrapolations, the record is touched with a bit of melancholy, but mostly leaves room for the listener to insert his own emotional perception. “Fortune” adds a primitive tom beat and Lawrence’s anemic, yet competent, vocals, which certainly possess some of Verlaine’s cool detachment. Throughout the EP, the songs may be skeletal, but it’s by purpose not ineptitude. “I Worship the Sun” is the gift here, a chiming guitar line skirting atop rapid fire toms and between Lawrence’s pleading paeans. By record’s end, “Templeroy,” the band condenses once again, as Lawrence’s simply sung amorphisms are whirled around in a slow build of cascading guitar.

Devoid of affectation or trend, the music Felt made was distinguished by a purity that few bands are able to truly possess. Crumbling the Antiseptic Beauty—as well as the whole of Felt’s catalog—seemed directly linked to one man’s artistic impulses. That history may eventually completely overlook them is irrelevant.
Stephen Slaybaugh