Attitudecounts for a lot in rock 'n' roll, but it's not sufficient in and of itself. Actually, it was impressive just how far its brooding attitude carried England's Psychedelic Furs last night at the Merriweather Post Pavilion, but in the end the show was too long on mood and too short on music. Dressed in black leather, the skinny, pasty-faced lead singer Richard Butler played the role of the angst-ridden outsider most effectively. The rest of the septet reinforced the atmosphere: John Ashton's brittle guitar riffs swam in the band's enveloping drone, which in turn pulsed to an insistent big beat.
As entrancing as this atmosphere was, it eventually grew tiresome, for the Furs' songs proved incredibly static and humorless, and their general lack of melody was only exacerbated by their disco beat and the hoarse croak of Butler's vocals. With just a little bit of musical content, though, this could be a most effective band. They proved it on the few songs that actually offered a real melody and rhythm pattern: "Shadow in My Heart," "Heaven" and "Sleep Comes Down." It was on these songs that Mars Williams stepped forward to take honking sax solos, which were the most soulful moments of the night.
If the Psychedelic Furs are a smart, ambitious band stymied by its own limitations, the opening band, Mission U.K., proved an offensive, cynical joke -- sort of a British version of Mr. Mister. Trying to compensate for its tuneless, monotonous hard rock, Mission U.K. tried one gimmick after another: Thick clouds of smoke obscured drummer Mick Brown; lead singer Wayne Hussey kept jumping into the crowd and pulling teen-age girls onstage; the whole band kept taunting the helpless security guards. Hussey, formerly of the Sisters of Mercy, exaggerated every gesture and note -- as if that somehow made his simple-minded songs profound.