Twenty years ago, singer Richard Butler was taking shots at the institutions of marriage, religion and pop culture through the caustic lyrics of his postpunk band, Psychedelic Furs.
"They're making up things that we've all heard before like romance and engage and divorce/ You have to be crazy to stay in the place, you just have to laugh at it all," went a typical line from the Furs' signature second album, "Talk Talk Talk."
Butler mellowed somewhat on subsequent albums, and the band became more of a commercial venture with studio-polished hits such as "Love My Way," "Heaven" and "Heartbreak Beat." After helping to define modern-rock through the '80s, Butler pulled the plug on the Furs in 1991 following a tour promoting the band's seventh album, "World Outside." He then recorded two albums with the critically acclaimed but commercially underperforming Love Spit Love in the mid-'90s.
Today, Butler is perhaps a little more tolerant of people's need for institutions. He's happily married with child and making a move that might not sit well with the rebellious ideals of his youth: He's re-formed Psychedelic Furs with his bass-playing brother Tim and guitarist John Ashton, and is touring again. The motives behind the reunion were simple, though, according to Butler.
"When you stop something you stop it for a number of reasons, and as time goes by, those reasons become less important. One of the main issues for me was boredom of having been in the same band for so many years. It's not like we were terrible enemies and we can't stand the sight of each other."
In addition to the three founding members, the new lineup includes Love Spit Love guitarist Richard Fortus and drummer Frank Ferrer. Some longtime fans might wonder why Butler didn't reassemble the original six-member group who recorded his own favorite Furs album, "Talk Talk Talk," before half the band was ejected. The singer is amused by the idea but pragmatic about the results of such a full-blown reunion.
"It would be an interesting exercise, but I don't think Roger `Morris`, for instance, has picked up a guitar in 15 years," says Butler.
The tour is only the beginning of the next phase for the revitalized group. With new songs already written, they plan to rehearse and record a new album once the tour ends in August. Butler is surprisingly optimistic about wading back into a musical climate that currently favors fluffy pop over bands of substance.
"The pop thing just comes and goes -- it's not like there was never a Menudo," he says, referring to Ricky Martin's '80s boy band. "But I think it's healthy, because someone invariably comes along and says, 'I've had enough of all this crap: I'm gonna do this.'"
Does Butler feel he and the Furs can contribute to the next musical revolution?
"I think we can make great music and influence other people who make music, but if I were a young person, I'd look to people more my own age for how to live my life," he says. "And that's part of the attraction -- it's a rebellion against what's gone before."
So don't expect the feline-elegant Butler to break out the big jeans and baseball cap to fit in with the current batch of chart-topping rockers.
"God forbid, what a laughable sight that would be," he says, chuckling at the thought before offering a taste of his old biting social commentary. "I see kids around and they've got these awful clothes on, and you think, 'Wow, you're gonna have this great body once in your life for a very short period of time, and you want to cover it with that?'"
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