Th’ Faith Healers

TrackSingle / EP / Album
Gorgeous Blue FlowerA Picture Of Health EP
Pop SongToo Pure: PURE 2
Reptile SmileIn Love EP
LovelyIn Love EP
Spin ½Lido
This TimeLido
Sparklingly ChimeImaginary Friend
Heart FogImaginary Friend
The PeopleImaginary Friend
S.O.S.The Peel Sessions

Th' Faith Healers photo 1

Th’ Faith Healers (l to r): Tom Cullinan (guitar and vocals),
Roxanne Stephen (vocals), Ben Hopkin (bass), Joe Dilworth (drums)

 

 

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Th’ Faith Healers playlist

 

 

Contributor: Chris L.

Matt was always the cool one among the lads in our little village in the middle of nowhere. He was a few years older, the best at football, and he was everyone’s mate. He was also the first of us to get a car. There was always this strange and exciting music blaring out from his garage while he endlessly tinkered about with his failing engine, and it mesmerised me.

At home it was strictly Dad’s Byrds and Beatles records, which were fine, or my brother’s hair metal, which was not. At Matt’s it was Loop, Sonic Youth, Butthole Surfers, JAMC, My Bloody Valentine, Ride, Pixies … I’d never heard anything like it before, and I loved it. He was always more than happy to share whatever latest record he’d acquired, and the first time he played Th’ Faith Healers’ Gorgeous Blue Flower to me, I was hooked in an instant.

There was this brooding bassline, a guitar that suggested Black & Decker were now making pedals, and a singer who somehow managed to sound both sweet and menacing at the same time. It was glorious.

A few days later Matt appeared at my front door and gave me his copy of that EP, saying “you like this more than I do, enjoy it”. Top man. I did enjoy it, and still do. From that moment I knew I needed to find out everything I could about the band, buy their records, see them live. Green River Records in Reading was the first stop, and the Pop Song single was mine.

It’s under 3 minutes of perfect shouty pop. Joe’s relentless drumming in tandem with Ben’s driving bass, Tom’s chugging guitar, Roxanne casually spitting the words out. They had worked out their formula and to my ears they could do no wrong.

Next up for me was the In Love EP, containing the wonderfully spiky lead track Reptile Smile, a song that put them on mainstream radio and the fringes of the charts. “Alright / well and good / I’ll admit it’s all my fault / I’m sorry ok” is delivered like a disturbing nursery rhyme over Tom’s manic razorblade riff.

When, at the end, Roxanne sings that she loves you, she means it.

Every time I hear the beautiful extra track Lovely I’m completely charmed. Lyrics were an afterthought, Roxanne softly repeating the title as the song closes. Lovely indeed. The band were clearly pressing on unashamedly with their quietveryloudquiet dynamic. I wasn’t complaining. If it ain’t broke …

It was early 1992 that I saw them live for the first time. They were playing new songs from their upcoming debut album Lido and they made a proper racket. Centre stage was Roxanne, barefoot as she usually was, face hidden behind her impossibly long untamed hair. Tom was wrestling with his guitar. Ben was comparatively still and unassuming as he did his bass thing. Joe, on the other hand, played the drums like he was on fire, using sticks that looked about a yard long, his head wobbling as if his neck had given up. They were captivating. That night they closed the set with the fuzzy epic Spin ½ (as they mostly did moving forward). I’ve witnessed monstrous live versions of this song clocking in everywhere between 5 and 20 minutes in length. The album-closing version settles on a rather skinny 9 minutes.

Lido was released soon after. It remains one of my favourite albums, full of fury and fun in equal measure. It begins with the sinister This Time. “Let’s do it / whereby / this time you die / if not quite soon / maybe by this afternoon” repeated over and over. Quite.

Plonked in the middle of the album is a faithful cover of Can’s Mother Sky which I’ve not included here. There was no subtly hiding their influences.

Around that time I was in North London with my job, and for a while it seemed like Th’ Faith Healers were playing somewhere nearby every week. They were marvellous times, though my ears and liver may plead a different version of events.

Hot on Lido‘s heels came album #2 Imaginary Friend and it was immediately clear the Healers were flying. Joe and Ben were still laying down their signature groove, tight as ever, constantly driving the band forward. Tom was bending strings even more frantically.

The opener Sparklingly Chime is probably my favourite of theirs and maybe the closest they got to a true radio-friendly song, though it never was released as a single. Roxanne urgently sings “Sorry for what I said / let go of my head / the angels adore you!” as Tom does his best to stay in tune.

Heart Fog begins quietly before the unsurprising distortion kicks in, sounding for all the world like the Pixies song Charles should have written for Kim. The krautrock-laden The People tempts you in with a brilliantly simple loop and an eager pace before everything is turned up to 11 in typical Healers fashion.

 

The whole album was liberally splattered with their DNA; with each song you almost second-guessed what was coming, but this was a way more polished and grown-up effort than Lido. The album ends with the 20 minute long Everything, All At Once, Forever, a truly remarkable effort from a band that was making 3 minute punk songs just a couple of years earlier. This was a band that was full steam ahead. They were going places.

But, alas, they weren’t going places at all.

As quickly as the band entered my life, they were gone. Finished. Done. Right when it seemed they were on top of their game. Maybe that’s the best time to call it a day? It certainly didn’t feel like it at the time. I was crestfallen.

Tom was now leading Quickspace. Joe was back taking beautiful photographs (e.g. the front covers of Isn’t Anything, Loveless and Nowhere are all his work, among numerous others). Roxanne stepped away from the limelight.

They reformed sporadically. In 2006 for some shows to promote their Peel Sessions compilation (I’ve included their excellent version/demolition of ABBA’s S.O.S. here) and in 2009 for a couple of ATPs. It was magical to see them again, even if it wasn’t quite the same any more.

Two albums and a handful of EPs and compilations doesn’t do them justice somehow, one will always wonder what might have been. You can hear from their records though, backed up by their raucous gigs, they had an absolute blast. I was gutted it ended so abruptly, but will always love Th’ Faith Healers dearly.

I haven’t seen Matt in over 20 years. Maybe one day I’ll get to thank him for his influence. Wherever he is, I hope he’s got a more reliable car now.

 

 

 

Th' Faith Healers poster

 

Th’ Faith Healers fan site

Th’ Faith Healers … The Peel Sessions

Th’ Faith Healers at Discogs

Th’ Faith Healers biography (AllMusic)

You can find our contributor Chris L on twitter @cjl__73

TopperPost #966

1 Comment

  1. Johny Nocash
    Jul 4, 2021

    Lovely writing Chris. Joe drummed for Stereolab for a while iirc. Looking forward to digging into some of the music. And finding out about Matt’s new car…

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