Review: Emotional Rescue is delighted to present the first of two EPs from British '80s band Furniture, starting with their much sought-after, six-song "mini-album" - as they were known then - which has recently been rediscovered by a new generation of DJs and collectors. … Read more
Having started in 1979, Furniture were already veterans of the London club circuit by the time of its release in 1983, used to swimming against prevailing tides, playing the flute in front of punks, citing John Barry instead of The Clash as an influence, becoming adept at not quite fitting in. Indeed, their very name confused seekers of mystery or glamour.
Initially playing a kind of punk'n'funk hybrid supporting people like Funkapolitan or The Birthday Party, after one self-released 7" single and a line-up change, the core trio of Jim Irvin (vocals, percussion, keyboards), Hamilton Lee (drums and percussion) and Tim Whelan (guitars, keyboards, vocals) signed to Survival/Premonition records and decided to pursue something reflecting the breadth of the music they loved: Chic, Can, Sinatra, Isley Brothers, The Shangri Las, Sun Ra, Dexys Midnight Runners. There was a jazz revival happening at that time in London and the band drew on that aesthetic for their debut long player. Up to a point.
"We were suburban kids from Ealing and Hounslow," says Irvin, "and we didn't see the point in pretending to be star material. We knew about being heartbroken in smoky pubs, so we sang about that. Most bands were being new romantics, doing the post-punk skronk or Numan/League/OMD electro. We came on in our street clothes and mixed it all up. I resented the '80s for its insistence that everyone stay in lane. We wanted to weave about a bit." Scratched into the run-out groove of When The Boom Was On was "Death of the Cool, pt.1"
Live shows added guest musicians playing violin, sax, trombone or double bass. When they played the trendy Camden Palace they won over the crowd with their off-beat ordinariness. People liked them but the media were slow to respond. Furniture realised they'd made it hard for themselves, but couldn't change. As it turned out, their naivety, stubbornness, whatever it was, meant that when it came time to make records, they made music that wasn't in thrall to fashion, which is why it remains fresh.
Opener "Transatlantic Cable" compares the cliches of a certain type of American romance - Bogart, Sinatra, Dean - to the reality of life in West London. "They're On Me" is probably one of very few pop songs to feature double bass and the word "newsagent", while a centerpiece of early live shows, "Robert Nightman's Story" is powered by a riff on marimba and Tim's abrasive rhythm guitar, Jim once again flirting with American imagery, evoking a character who is "jumping the cars on the mystery train."
Side Two opens with "I Miss You", a Furniture classic, later showcased live on TV show, The Tube, a torch song so good you'd think Julie London might have cut it. A highlight for many is "Why Are We In Love", sung by Tim Whelan. This track is a key reason for the revival of interest in the band, Hami's pattering rhythm part and the sweet clarinet melody, played by longstanding guest member, Larry Whelan (Tim's brother), creating an atmosphere that has attracted a following among discerning DJs, who've helped make original pressings increasingly rare. This and closing song "A Letter To Myself" introduced the band's new, expanded line-up adding Sally Still (bass, vocals) and Maya Gilder (keyboards), which would endure until the band stopped in 1990.
Self-produced, recorded in Denmark Street and at various small facilities in West London, "When The Boom Was On" is both nostalgic and curiously modern.
This new edition has been carefully remastered and repackaged and will be followed by a companion EP of sought-after 12" mixes from several of the band's lesser known but equally intriguing EPs, as well as one "On Broken Glass".