Let the Snakes Crinkle Their Heads to Death

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When Felt signed to Creation in 1985, after five years and five albums with Cherry Red, they convinced label head Alan McGee that their first release should be an all-instrumental affair. The 1986 album Let the Snakes Crinkle Their Heads to Death is a typically idiosyncratic move for the band. Coming off their biggest single to date, "Primitive Painters," it might have made more sense for the group to pursue that big pop sound further. Lawrence wasn't one to do the usual thing, however, and with new keyboardist Martin Duffy taking the place of departed guitarist Maurice Deebank as his main melodic foil, he crafted ten short musical vignettes that have all the grandeur and deep emotional content of their earlier work, but in concentrated form. Certainly Lawrence's heart-tugging vocals are missed, but his crystal-clear guitar work and Duffy's brilliant work on the keys are more than enough to keep listeners attention dialed in just short of rapt. Whether the songs are bright and cheerful like "The Seventeenth Century," gloomy and atmospheric like "The Palace," laid-back and nocturnal like "Indian Scriptures," or finger-snappingly cool like "Jewel Sky," the simplicity of the arrangements makes it easy to get a grasp on the feeling the group is transmitting, and the melody lines Lawrence and Duffy lay down are like brief bulletins directed straight to the heart. Those who would try to deny that this album lacks the fundamental beauty and emotional power of the band's more vocal-oriented work only need listen to the entrancing, almost hymnal "Voyage to Illumination" or the majestically uplifting "The Nazca Plain" to see the folly of their position. Let the Snakes Crinkle Their Heads to Death may be lacking Lawrence's voice, but his vision and skill at crafting powerful music are fully intact.

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