By the time they released their second album, 1984's The Splendour of Fear, Felt had begun to move on from the claustrophobic, sparse sound of their debut, where Lawrence's vocals were buried in the mix. The 1982 single "Trails of Colour Dissolve" brought his desperately angst-filled vocals to the fore and dialed back Maurice Deebank's guitar work just a bit. It was still primitive and a little raw, but when they went into the studio to record Splendour, producer John A. Rivers and the band went for a bigger, more fully realized approach that made the drums pound like thunder and the guitars fill the screen all the way to the furthest edges. Most importantly, Lawrence's vocals are up front and strong; he sounds fully in charge of the band and the songs like he hadn't up to that point. When his vocals come in for the first time, on the album's second song, "The World Is as Soft as Lace," it's a revelatory moment that's charged with emotion, and as the song rises to a close, it's clear that Felt have taken a huge step forward. There's only one other vocal track of the six that make up the album, "The Stagnant Pool," and it too is an impressively dramatic adventure that shows some new skills at arranging their sparse sounds and packs a blinding punch. The instrumentals are lovely as well, especially the rollicking "Mexican Bandits," which romps like a chase scene as the two guitarists duel and the drums and bass carry them along, and "A Preacher in New England," which is a fine showcase for Deebank's baroque acrobatics and adds some subtle synth wash to the mix. The Splendour of Fear is a fine follow-up to Felt's dramatic debut, and points the way forward to their first classic era.
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AllMusic Review by Tim Sendra