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After establishing their sparse, dramatic sound with two albums and a handful of singles, Felt exploded into brilliance on their third album, 1984's The Strange Idols Pattern and Other Short Stories. Working with producer John Leckie for the first time, the band made a purposeful leap into the world of hi-fi recording: the arrangements are full and layered, Lawrence's vocals pop with confidence and vigor, and Felt have a limber swing to them that they'd never exhibited before. As usual, the record was split between Maurice Deebank's intricate instrumentals and Lawrence's songs, but for the first time Deebank's guitar explorations and Lawrence's tightly wound inner journeys sound like the work of two different visionaries instead of a united front. To that end, the instrumentals are limited to only three this time. Lawrence's songs are too good to be shunted aside; almost every track here could be considered one of his best. The hooks are undeniable, the melodies are crystalline, Lawrence's vocals have jumped about five steps ahead of where they were and his words have taken on deeper meanings and feelings, and Deebank's guitarwork is perfectly integrated into the jangling whole. Felt hinted at being able to make music as immediate and catchy as "Spanish House" and "Sunlight Bathed the Golden Glow"; they came close to recording songs as achingly pretty as "Vasco da Gama" and "Crystal Ball"; but this is where it all comes together and they deliver their first masterpiece. Songs like "Dismantled King Is Off the Throne" and "Roman Litter" rank with the best poppy post-punk of the early '80s; they have all the emotional power of the Smiths, all the guitar overload of the Church, all the drama of Echo & the Bunnymen, and more than enough elevated songcraft and laser-sharp vision to make them sound totally unique. The Strange Idols Pattern and Other Short Stories may not have the cachet or reputation of albums by the "big-name" bands of the era, but it has the songs and that's what counts the most. This is Lawrence and Felt at their absolute classic best, not to be overlooked or missed for any reason.