The Feelies sure look like geeks against the ocean-blue on their debut album cover (yes, Weezer ripped it off), and Glenn Mercer’s lightly clogged intonation suggests Jonathan Richman’s taking the lonely boy in the corner to the stage. Looks and intonations can fool, though. Cut in 1980 and featuring tunes worked over sometimes for years before that, Crazy Rhythms is not about filling out the inner life of sweaty stutterers in cardigans (Jonathan needs no help on that territory) or shouting love and acceptance to a recalcitrant world (ditto). The nine tracks here manifest transcendence, finding the path to that glory through harmonic minimalism and sonic variety.
The quartet bangs and rattles a lot of things but knows always when and what to bang and rattle. The record starts in clave dots of sound almost like birdsong, and indeed many times the percussion proves more tuneful than the trance-inducing stringed instruments. You should skip the credits for your first few spins — they’ll bring a smile, and a “galloping guitar” or “reverbed sticks” sound about like you’d suspect, but let the Feelies show you instead of telling you.
I wouldn’t trust these reissue credits too much anyway; they turn “Original Love” into “Original Sin” and imply that no one plays an actual drum kit on “Everybody’s Got Something To Hide (Except Me and My Monkey)” (though Mercer’s coat-rack dinner-bell ostinato can’t be denied). And you’ll learn about all the cool stuff the band studied (yeah, Velvet Underground; yeah, Eno) without learning how much they learned from Duane Eddy, Chuck Day, the Viscounts’ take on “Harlem Nocturne,” private-eye TV show soundtracks, and sound effects records. All of that’s interesting, and none of it matters much. They are going for the beyond, and at several breath-hitching moments, they mop clean our darkly glass.
- Album: Crazy Rhythms (2009)
- Artist: The Feelies
- Label: Bar None
- Songs: (1) The Boy With The Perpetual Nervousness (2) Fa Cé-La (3) Loveless Love (4) Forces At Work (5) Original Love (6) Everybody's Got Something To Hide (Except Me and My Monkey) (7) Moscow Nights (8) Raised Eyebrows (9) Crazy Rhythms