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In the music spotlight: Psychedelic Furs

BY JEFF ELBEL | FOR THE SUN-TIMES

Few bands are as emblematic of the ‘80s as the Psychedelic Furs, who nonetheless possess a sound that continues to shimmer with vitality. Brothers Richard and Tim Butler launched the band in 1977, helping to define the post-punk sound of alternative rock and New Wave. Richard’s unique and raspy vocals blend David Bowie’s croon with Johnny Rotten’s snarl. Tim contributes steady bass and strong songwriting instincts.

The Furs’ first four albums are classics of the genre. A re-recorded version of “Pretty in Pink” from 1981’s “Talk Talk Talk” album became a major hit after serving as the title track for John Hughes’ 1986 film starring Molly Ringwold. 1982’s “Forever Now” included the tense and sinewy “Love My Way,” for which producer Todd Rundgren played the song’s signature marimba line. 1984’s “Mirror Moves” featured the heady romance of “The Ghost in You” and plaintive “Heaven.”

The band’s biggest US chart hit capitalized upon the success of the “Pretty in Pink” film. “Heartbreak Beat” was released as a single in fall of 1986, and appeared on 1987’s “Midnight to Midnight.” With Mars Williams’ prominent and memorable saxophone lead, the song reached #26 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

Richard Butler left the group to spend the 1990’s with Love Spit Love. Brother Tim also participated on both of the newer band’s albums. 1994’s self-titled debut yielded an alternative rock favorite with “Am I Wrong,” co-written by the brothers. 2006 saw the release of Richard Butler’s critically acclaimed solo album.

The Butler brothers reunited with veteran Psychedelic Furs guitarist John Ashton to re-launch the band in 2000 with members of Love Spit Love. A 2001 live album called “Beautiful Chaos” contained the new studio recording “Alive (For Once in My Lifetime).” Although the band has hinted at a new album, the Psychedelic Furs have spent the last 14 years stoking the fire of their fan-pleasing legacy.

Psychedelic Furs, 8:00 p.m. Jan. 4-6, City Winery, 1200 W Randolph, (312) 733-9463, $45-$55 (SOLD OUT); citywinery.com.

Jeff Elbel is a local freelance writer. Email: elbel.jeff@gmail.com