Many of the so-called British New Wave acts of the 1980s had a hard time coping when the decade that they helped to define ended. In many cases, these struggles had as much to do with the shifting tides of musical taste as anything specific that might have occurred within the particular bands themselves. For whatever reasons, that particular genre produced very few second acts.
Brothers Richard and Tim Butler, who made their name in the ’80s with The Psychedelic Furs, managed to avoid that dilemma. They did this by forming a new band, with guitarist Richard Fortus and drummer Frank Ferrer, called Love Spit Love, which tried to veer away from the Furs’ formula instead of repeating it. “It was a different direction,” Tim Butler told Songfacts in an interview. “We got bored of being constrained by The Furs. I mean, The Furs expect a certain sound out of it. We wanted to broaden our musical palette, if you like.”
In 1994, the first single off Love Spit Love’s self-titled debut certainly achieved this goal. There were no overt synth touches or bold backbeats to be found on the first single “Am I Wrong,” co-written by the Butler brothers, as it instead conjured a vibe more in keeping with the times through its cascading guitars and shuffling mid-tempo rhythm. Only when you heard Richard Butler’s unmistakable rasp might you connect this song to the Psycehedelic Furs, but even the vocals are underplayed here in the service of a lovely, bittersweet tune.
The two people in “Am I Wrong” are suffering equally, with the narrator offering advice to the person he’s addressing even as he suffers through his own torment. His opening words, “There’s too much/ That I keep to myself,” suggest that the self-examination and confessions that he undertakes are not actually shared with this other person. And it seems like the duo are the participants in a romance about to run its course: “It’s like glass/ When we break/ I wish no one in my place.”
This couple is unable to make the commitment necessary to get through these hard times, and it seems to frustrate them both: “On my fate/ You give no guarantees/ There’s no promise I can keep.” The narrator’s angst is represented by an almost complete paralysis and deadening of the senses, as he feels unable to stand or see in the presence of his heartbreak. And yet he reaches out to this other person to try to help her through her own malaise.
In the closing verse, the narrator seems both disappointed and saddened in the transformation that has taken place: “You’re so tired in your face/ You let life get in your way.” He keeps asking, “Am I wrong,” as if he hopes he’ll find out that he is incorrect, that there is somehow a way back to happiness for the pair. But his refrain of “Goodbye, lay the blame on luck” is the final word, these two people writing off their failure to the winds of chance when they both know chance had nothing to do with it.
The run of great Psychedelic Furs’ singles throughout the ’80s is one of the most impressive put together by any band that decade. But “Am I Wrong” shows that their excellence, transferred temporarily to the Love Spit Love banner, was bigger than any genre or era.