Crumbling the Antiseptic Beauty/Splendour of Fear

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On Crumbling the Antiseptic Beauty, there are hints of Felt's later English pop grandeur -- on the instrumental opener "Evergreen Dazed," for example, which (sans rhythm section) pits guitarist Maurice Deebank's cascading, euphoric noodlings against Lawrence Hayward's clear acoustic strums -- but overall, this is a fairly primitive affair. There is a stripped-down psychedelic feel to certain tracks, with drums pounding out a tribalistic, rolling beat beneath Deebank's complex guitar runs and Hayward's obtuse vocals. Later in their career, particularly on 1985's The Strange Idols Pattern and Other Short Stories, Felt would finally curb all that minimalist atmosphere into three-minute pop gems (while maintaining their skewed, unconventional palette); here, however, the pieces are in place but the overall vision is still rudimentary. On The Splendour of Fear, Felt still hasn't figured out how to tame all that glorious atmosphere into a distinct vision. The classically trained Deebank can unravel glistening guitar scales like nobody's business -- and Lawrence's obtuse vocal delivery certainly possesses an uncanny charm -- but this release can be monotonous at times, lapsing too often into meandering guitarscapes. The tone of the album is set on the first track, which opens with an extended dirge-like instrumental that finally gives way to Lawrence's vocals. The eight-minute-plus track "The Stagnant Pool" is a highlight here, simply because it seems purposeful -- with Lawrence's ominous vocals giving way to an emotional, melodic guitar jam that anticipates the later work of the Smiths' Johnny Marr.

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