Forever Breathes the Lonely Word

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Felt's first non-instrumental album for Creation is also their first without lead guitarist Maurice Deebank. Forever Breathes the Lonely Word is Martin Duffy's coming-out party and his Hammond organ fits the band's new, more direct sound perfectly. The guitars certainly still jangle and sting, but the warm tones of the organ give the songs a deeper, more soulful feel. And the songs pick up right where they left off on Ignite the Seven Cannons; "Rain of Crystal Spires" kicks things off in brilliant fashion and the rest of the record never lets you down. It's one melancholy gut punch after another, with the guitars and organ meshing together in perfect harmony and Lawrence intoning his literate and desperate lyrics like he was walking head down in the misty rain on an autumn day. Every song on the album is like a crystallized nugget of everything that is good and magical about the band. Lawrence's poetry and emotion come through like steady bolts of lightning, the hooks are sharper than freshly sliced paper, and there's a murky mystery that lurks in the grooves. This is the first record where some of the clouds that hung over previous records begin to part just a bit and the sound is brighter and almost even cheerful at times. Credit Duffy for some of that, and also the light and spacious production, but mostly Lawrence for writing upbeat songs like "Down But Not Yet Out" or "Gather Up Your Wings and Fly" that are downers, but have a spring in their step and feathery melodies. Even the quieter, sadder songs like "September Lady" and "A Wave Crashed on the Rocks" have a pleasing lightness. Both those songs have lush backing vocals, something not heard much on previous albums and indicative of the care the team put into the sound of the record. The album's centerpiece is the epic "All the People I Like and Those That Are Dead," which pairs Lawrence's whispered vocals and bleak sentiments with swirling organs, dueling guitars, and a wide-open cinematic feel that's new. The band had made big statements before, especially "Primitive Painters," but this is the first time they have sounded confident and it's an impressive step back on the right track. 1994's The Strange Idols Pattern And Other Short Stories may have been where Felt truly became a great band - the kind that inspired devotion and careful study. After a couple of relative misfires and side trips, Forever Breathes the Lonely Word reaffirms their greratness and anyone would be hard pressed to find two better albums made in the '80s.

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