Personnel: Karl Hyde (vocals, guitar); Alfie Thomas, John Warwicker, Rick Smith (keyboards); Bryn Burrows (drums).
While Karl Hyde and Rick Smith may have finally achieved success as dancefloor favorites Underworld in the '90s and noughties, they are surprisingly quiet about their `80s musical outlet, Freur. While their silence speaks volumes about how they feel about their past, Freur's fan base has remained loyal and passionate.
The band didn't achieve the fame they deserved, but they were one of the most unique and memorable bands of the era. Using electronics as a starting point, Freur cleverly mixed guitars, piano, percussion and other instruments into their melting pot, creating an atmospheric and experimental sound that was just as organic as it was processed. Never overbaked, the quintet's songs were layered with melodies that walked the tightrope between haunting and beautiful. While they are best remembered for the track "Doot Doot" (and using a squiggle for their name), the band had so much more to offer and this release containing both of their albums is proof that they made a delicious pudding. Their 1983 debut album, Doot Doot, opens with the title track, a wonderfully gentle slice of ear candy that is not easily forgotten once you've let it sink under your skin. There is really nothing like it. Not quite a ballad, it is soothing without being maudlin, dark without being gothic, and romantic without being sappy. The rest of the album strays from the title track's musical formula, but they are all equally intriguing and melodic. "Tender Surrender" and "Whispering" have beautiful melodic choruses that will send chills up your spine. The singles "Runaway," "Matters of the Heart," and "Riders in the Night" are odd slices of pure twisted pop that should have been hits. The album reveals its secrets listen after listen and never overstays its welcome. The real attraction on this two-fer is the first appearance on CD of the seldom-heard sophomore album, Get Us Out of Here, originally released in 1985. This second album picks up where Doot Doot left off, but then takes the music in a slightly harder direction. There's nothing quite as unique as "Doot Doot," but the band expands on their sound, adding echoes of soul, Celtic, and rock music into the mix. Anyone looking for a carbon copy of their debut will be disappointed, but those wanting to hear the band expand on their sound will have plenty to love. The melodies aren't quite as pretty, but they are certainly hook-filled and playful. "Look in the Back for Answers," `The Devil And The Darkness," "Emeralds & Pearls," and "The Piano Song" are a few of the real highlights. Though this was the final Freur album, the sound of Get Us Out of Here hints at the direction the band would take when they re-emerged a few years later as Underworld, releasing the album Underneath the Radar. ~ Stephen SPAZ Schnee