Producing a timeless single of dark and ethereal gothic angst, Furniture are the last of the great, lost stiff bands. The final nail in the label’s coffin, when bankruptcy hit in 1987, which also threatened to nail the band’s career for good.
Founded in 1979 in Ealing by Jim Irvin (vocals), Tim Whelan (guitar) and Hamilton Lee (drums), the band first recorded for a local indie label called The Guy From Paraguay. Cut to seven years later and they’ve had a prolific career, albeit restricted to the fringes of indie, releasing an array of singles and EPs on Survival Records.
With momemtum behind them, Furniture brought their seminal work – Brilliant Mind – to Stiff. Sure, it was a hit – reaching number 21 in June 1986 – but its longeivity is what sets it apart from just about everything else that was in the charts that year. Twenty years later and the song still shows up on TV and on film. One of Dom Joly’s personal favourites, he used it extensively in his World Shut Your Mouth series.
If ever there was a band that could have gone on to bigger things, it was Furniture. But just as Brilliant Mind’s album follow-up hit the streets (The Wrong People, SEEZ 64), Stiff shut up shop. The band spent the rest of the 80s touring with the British Council to remote areas of the pop map like Cyprus, Turkey, Romania, and Czechoslovakia.
By the time they returned to the UK, the music scene had moved on and releases for Arista failed to capture the public attention in the way that Brilliant Mind had. They split in the early 90s with Jim Irvin becoming a journalist for The Guardian and Time Out and Tim Whelan and Hamilton Lee going off in a more techno direction with Transglobal Underground.