by Christopher Arnott /
There’s a story of Derek Holcomb’s neighbor, the eminent literary scholar Harold Bloom, breaking up a loud Furors rehearsal by intoning “Gentlemen! A little less furor, please!”
Any appreciation of the Furors, whether from a furious neighbor or an awestruck fan, can only be personal. The Furors are many things to many people, and fist fights would commence if anybody tried to prioritize their myriad charms.
They are, at first glance, a simple band – two guys, a guitar, and drums. Derek patters and scampers, singing in his patented up-down-all-around childlike chortle. Tom Dans keeps the rhythm. But their music, as the bands on this celebratory disk can tell you, is infinitely complex. Beatlesque harmonies with scruffy punk overtones. Buddy Holly-esque riffs played carefully akilter, as if a chip in Derek’s head was channeling the notes through a whole new musical equation.
The lyrics are clear (“I rolled down the window of my car on the Industrial Park”), blunt (How pretty you were, when I cared”), brazen (“I kissed your wife goodnight, and I’ll be back again”), sweet and melodic and adorably scruffy. Then there are the flourishes: the literal bells and whistles that make a Furors performance tingle and toot.
I am a relative latecomer to the long-lived local legend that is The Furors. I first saw them at a benefit for a scruffy art gallery in the most depressed part of downtown New Haven. But I knew whence they sprang. They’d spent some time in my new wave hometown of Boston, soaking up that city’s curiously friendly and comic punk scene. Their innate pop smarts were augmented by the avant-garde. They told me that, as high school students in New York state, they’d snuck into the city to see The Bonzo Dog Band live, and I have never felt more jealous. Once when interviewing them, Derek and Tom presented me with several cassettes of Offenbach operettas they’d taped for me, in another vain attempt to explain their disparate influences. They also gifted me with a complete set of their early singles, a gorgeous collection of visual art objects unto themselves.
That singles collection (since anthologized locally as a limited edition CD-R) includes The Furors’ breakthrough two-45 set “Electric Guitar and Drums”. The title was the format of the band, despite some dalliances as a trio prior and subsequent to that set. The labels on the records have no words on them, and each is a different bright color – blue, green, yellow, red.
After my instantaneous conversion to their colorful, cartoonish and chaotic cause, I wrote about The Furors every chance I got – even when they hadn’t released a record in years or played out in months. A New Haven without the Furors wasn’t worth living in. Over the past few years they’ve reemerged with graceful underkill. In the small type on their recordings, “Recorded live in the studio” gave way to “Recorded live in the basement.” Luckily, there are several promoters who ask them to play regularly, whether for their recent and revelatory stripped-down acoustic-and-toy-instrument sets or for the plugged-in jump-and-split rave-ups.
The Furors, with little more than drum and guitar and furors, have recorded over 80 songs, tunes torn from the manic brow of Derek Holcomb and pounded into perfection by the gentlemanly percussionist Tom Dans.
Apparently some of these inimitable recordings have become imitable, and here are a few dozen Furors worshipers young and old paying tribute.
Gentlemen! More furor please!