Archive for the ‘The Feelies’ Category

The Feelies – Here Before (Review)

April 13th, 2011 No comments

The Feelies – Here Before (4 Stars out of 5)

Well it’s only been 20 years or so since the last Feelies album and they have not missed a beat.

This band defines the term “Freaks and Geeks”.  They would appear to have been hanging out in Uncle Fred’s basement too long watching Mystery Science Theatre 3000 marathons. They play the role of Napoleon Dynamite to a T once they get up onstage and jam. The laughs would turn to aws as Million and Mercer lull the fans to a frenzy with their dueling guitars. Demeski is behind the drumkit and Weckerman to his side playing weird percussive instruments and Brenda Sauter keeps these for musketeers in line with her bass.

The Feelies first album “Crazy Rhythms” was the album that I felt R.E.M.’s first two releases (Chronic Town, Murmur) were most inspired by. (As a sidenote, it was obvious that the band was inspired by their sound, as Peter Buck ended up producing their second release ‘The Good Earth’, but my statement is not a factual grab at what the band had been inspired by at that point but the aspects of ‘Crazy Rhythms’s that always stood out were the drums and guitars and I believe that to be the case on R.E.M.’s first two albums.)

They have never received the true accolades that they deserve but at the same time you wonder if they really want it. And as the 21st Century has approached there has been a welcome need to explore the back catalog of the Feelies to remind younger listeners their influence on the rock scene today.

As my second “Fanboy” review in a row, “The Feelies” feel just about as out of place as they did when they were on the scene.  Their interviews are scarce. Getting a response over a few words from Glenn Mercer is a miracle. Their demise in the 90’s was never from any personal strife from within the band but Bill Million being offered a job in Florida. And so it went as the rest of the members went their separate ways with their separate projects. Glenn Mercer began to bring it all back with the release of his solo album ‘Wheels in Motion’ that was aided in no small part to all the other members of the Feelies minus Bill Million.

‘Here Before’ feels like a retrospective; a reflective look back not just at rock and roll but at themselves. That might be the case for the band that opened up their ‘Crazy Rhythms’ about crazy youth with “The Boy With the Perpetual Nervousness”. On ‘When You Know’ Mercer asks that question directly looking back at himself in their heyday. Were the antics of our youth silly or was their something greater and more important going on?

Glenn Mercer’s enunciation comes through clearer than ever on this release as if the lyrics also has a point. This might also be due to the fact that he understands that older fans don’t have the time to go through and figure them out for themselves.  But I also hear a confidence, a wise old sage that is willing to part with some advice as he returns as the band leader.

The most heartfelt song is the title track ‘Here Before’ where he makes his confessions.  There is a level of melancholy where he reminisces about being back in a band and you hear him question their lack of success back in the day commenting on how everything flown by them and it was never for a lack of effort. Mercer is not screaming the lyrics here, almost barely audible and definitely at his most sensitive moment.

Unlike some other bands that talk about getting older, the difference is that not only the perspectives of the band have changed but fans as well.  We realize that our ideological youth is often blinded to alternatives. This both feeds the process but hinders it as well.

This album is not retreading on their brilliant debut but feels more in line with Americana-like “The Good Earth”. What the Feelies do with their music is add enough Velvet touches to make it immune from sounding like any American rock band that sounds like they have been on the road too long.

On the song ‘On and On’ it’s the subtle percussion that drives the track, as Glenn Mercer reinvents Lou Reed and you are reminded why you love this band.

Understanding that the future of the Feelies is not one that will contain many albums, so we are given this brief moment in time where we can relive past glories with a band that is still at the top of their game.  When a band takes a 20 year hiatus and comes back with an album like this, it’s a reminder they have accomplished something that rarely occurs, a solid album that can still outperform bands half their age.

When I had started gathering up for this grade, I thought that a 4 star grade was being too generous but I question now whether it might be too low.

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