Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Feelies — Here Before

Sometimes, when things just work, they work. You notice similarities, maybe even repetitions, but why complain about fixing something that clearly isn't broken?

Enter Glenn Mercer after the last song: "Thanks a lot. We're the Feelies."

I mean, sheesh, just a warning up front: I don't have a lot to say about this album, but I have absolutely no doubts in my mind that anyone who loved albums two (the Good Earth), three (Only Life) and four (Time for a Witness) by these guys will put this new one on and not be saying to themselves by the third track, 'Why'd you wait so damn long!'

Because it makes sense that —besides the fact that this is the exact same lineup that has played on all of the band's albums except Crazy Rhythms— this sounds like it came out just a few years after Time for a Witness. In the best possible way, too. Because nobody creates those beautiful layers of pure jangle with out of key, isolated weirdo lyrics on top like the Feelies do it.

The brilliantly titled Here Before is just the fifth Feelies album in just over thirty years of existence. As someone who became aware of them in the early 2000's and gave up looking for any of their increasingly hard to find albums a few years later, I was blown away in 2009 by the proper reissues of the band's first two albums. Both albums struck me as really timeless and I was genuinely surprised at how well they fit in with everything else I was into at the time; contemporary or not.

So, it makes sense that a band that has such a grasp on such a timeless sound could reunite twenty years after their previous album and sound just as assured, just as enduring and —most of all— just as great as they ever did in their initial run.

True, if you've heard any of the second, third or fourth Feelies albums, you're in for no surprises on Here Before. But, with R.E.M. having a midlife crisis the size of an entire county and the Ocean Blue likely disbanded for good this time, isn't it just plain old wonderful and life-affirming to hear one of the definitive American jangle bands bang one out, in classic style, like it was 1988? I say an enthusiastic yes.

And jeesh, is it just me, or is there like three or four songs on this thing that sound like Good Earth outtakes?

Songs like 'Should Be Gone' (harmony vocals!!), 'Morning Comes', 'Again Today' (pedal steel!!???!!) and 'Bluer Skies' sound straight from the band's classic period and this starts to be less of a, "Hey, let's reunite for old time's sake" sort of album and more like a, "We can make a real statement with a new album" set.

Meditative jangle.

They've quickly become one of my favorite bands of all time since the reissues a couple years ago, but after studying through their back catalogue and really properly listening to everything with pure open ears and appreciation can I really hear this new album the way I do now. It's a really awesome thing to hear Glenn's guitar tone at the beginning of 'On and On' perfectly recreate the tone heard on 'Slipping (Into Something)' and it somehow feels redemptive. Like this is what the band was building to all along: a new album of completely old ideas after twenty years of silence that, at once, proves to everyone once and for all that they were (or rather, ARE) top tier songwriters and tuned into a fresh and undying sound all along.

Really fantastic stuff.



Daniel said...

I strongly suspect that you've never seen the Feelies in concert. As good as the albums are, they are much better live.

Austin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Austin said...

Thanks for stopping by Daniel!

And no, I have not seen the mighty Feelies live (yet). I can't even imagine how much better a group of individuals could be in comparison to a dang near perfect studio track record!