Why is Richard Butler so Cool?

Richard Butler 1994, Washington D.C
Richard Butler 1994, Washington D.C -Photo by MJ Zander

Richard Butler is cool. The guy is absolutely dripping in the stuff. From the iconic Psychedelic Furs, to Love Spit Love, back to the Psychedelic Furs, Butler proves he’s got the one thing a lot of bands from the 80’s were missing….staying power based on originality.

Formed in 1977, the Furs released their self-titled debut album in 1980. A combination of punk and sixties psychedelia, the Furs became one of the most distinctive bands of the post punk genre. Butler, an art student who could be considered a bit of a visionary, saw music as a way to express things that painting couldn’t. After seeing the Sex Pistols at the 100 Club in London and realizing music didn’t have to be complicated or even, well, musical, to become a vehicle of expression, Butler decided it was time to form his own band. Butler claims he doesn’t think “anybody starts out being original.” However, with Butler’s cryptic lyrics and raw, sultry rasp, it didn’t take long for the Furs to do exactly that.

The Furs music was filled with an energy similar to punk. What separated them from bands like the Pistols was the delivery. Where Johnny Rotten spitted slogans and anti-establishment angst, Butler chose an enigmatic, ambivalent approach as if to say “here’s our music if you don’t like it, oh well.”

Seven albums later, after the 1991 release World Outside, the Furs called it a day. Butler, went on to form Love Spit Love with help from bandmate and brother Tim Butler. The band’s self-titled debut released in 1994 was well received. Butler’s rasp had been slightly polished and the music, while having elements from the Furs, sounded a bit tighter and mature thanks to the addition of guitarist Richard Fortus. 1995 found the band recording a cover version of The Smiths iconic “How Soon is Now” for the movie The Craft. This was a brave move. There are a certain songs that have already reached infallible perfection and should never be covered.  To do so is rock n roll sacrilege. “How Soon is Now” is one of those songs. It was the first time Richard Butler had disappointed me. However, he made up for it with the 1997 release of Trysome Eatone.

Richard Butler -Washington D.C. 1994  Photo taken by MJ Zander
Richard Butler -Washington D.C. 1994 Photo taken by MJ Zander

Richard Butler’s artistry goes beyond his music. A 2013 exhibit in New York entitled “ahatfulofrain” showcased his work that falls somewhere between abstract and visionary. Butler’s paintings are full of bizarre beauty with a dreamy quality that draws you into them. You can check them out here. https://player.vimeo.com/video/64023283?api=1&player_id=player_1

Butler has reunited with the Furs and is currently on tour.  You can find out more info here. http://www.thepsychedelicfurs.com/tour.html

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