04 October 2010

12 Canadian Bands - #9 Handsome Furs

Being a natural optimist, I tend to walk on the sunny side of the pop-music street, preferring bouncy upbeat stompers over those studiously angst-y power-pop ballads or the current trend of rage-y emo crap. That’s not to say I don’t love a dark tune, like say a good Nick Cave number, but I’m just predisposed to whistle a bouncier song, even if the lyrics themselves are kind of dark and/or disturbing.

I tend, thus, to avoid bands that try too hard to convince me of their dark side; it’s one thing to actually have a heroin addiction over which your soulmate and last hope has just left you, it’s quite another to write songs that try to convince us that this is perfectly normal in your special world, live from the ninth plane of hell. I’m looking at you, Love and Rockets.

Still, I can’t say I don't like to spend a little time in the dark or out on the ragged edge of rock angst, as long as I’m in the company of a skilled practitioner who can take me there and bring me back, yer Lou Reeds and Patti Smiths, yer Iggy Pops and Nick Caves and even Henry Rollins. It isn’t just black, it’s an interesting shade of black you never noticed before.

The Handsome Furs are not what you’d call my kind of band, and I’m yet to be sure how much time I want to spend in their dank and seedy world. But there’s definitely something there, a reminder of Suicide (the band), of Jim Carroll, of X (the band), of Joy Division -- a flirtation with the underworld that only David Lynch can see, the house band at the Black Lodge. Just a duo: synth, drum machine and guitar --a married couple at that (by sheer coincidence, I seem to keep finding bands like that) but they don’t sound like anyone else in Canadian music. Their second album, Face Control, is raw New Wave from back when it was still fusing a lot of punk and drugs into the mix, being raw and not caring.

There is something compelling about them. Not sure what. Can’t sleep -- clowns will eat me ...

“Radio Kaliningrad” by Handsome Furs

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