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Feelies - Feelies

  by Tommy Gunnarsson

published: 20 / 10 / 2009

Feelies - Feelies


Tommy Gunnarsson examines the career of influential American band, the Feelies, who have just had their two albums, 1980's 'Crazy Rhythms' and 1985's 'The Good Earth' re-released

It was the summer of 2003, and I was riding in a car together with two friends of mine. They had made a compilation CD with some of their favourite songs, and suddenly I heard a song that I didn’t recognise at all. It was a weird tune, with crazy rhythms and duelling, ragged guitars. And when there was just one minute left of the track, its vocalists finally started singing, repeating the only line of the song, “I said oh.” I asked what it was, and was told that it was 'Raised Eyebrows' by the Feelies. And well, my eyebrows were indeed raised. It didn’t take long to find the album, 'Crazy Rhythms', on the internet, and (Yes, I was being illegal here, sue me if you want to) I downloaded it in an instant. And just as instantly, I fell in love with the band. Since then, I have tried to track down a legal CD copy of the album, but I soon realized that it would cost me a fortune (the last CD release came out in 1990, and was sold for a lot of money on eBay). Until now! Thanks to Domino, we can now enjoy their first two albums, 'Crazy Rhythms' and 'The Good Earth', both of which were released by the band, back in 1980 and 1986! And, you get some bonus tracks, as well. Of course. There is no doubt that the Feelies have been an influential band, ever since the release of that classic debut album almost 30 years ago. Just listen to REM's 1982 first mini-album, 'Chronic Town', especially the song 'Stumble', and you get a big, healthy portion of crazy rhythms and weird guitar hooks. And last year, the (almost) original line-up of the Feelies reformed to open for Sonic Youth at a gig in the US, with Sonic Youth being another one of the bands that cite them as a major influence. The Feelies were formed back in 1976 in New Jersey by Glenn Mercer and Bill Million (both guitarists and vocalists), and three years later, they released their first single, 'Fa Cé-La', on the Rough Trade label in England. Another British label, the classic Stiff Records, would go on to release 'Crazy Rhythms' the following year. The sleeve is a modern pop classic, with the four members, looking very nerdy, staring into the camera (I think Weezer may have seen this sleeve photo when making their debut album), and when you pop the CD into your player, you are instantly greeted by the Feelies trademark: a hardly audible guitar strum that gets louder and louder; weird, improvised percussion parts and duelling guitars, playing what sounds like two different melodies. Most of the nine songs on the album are quite long, starting off with an intro that stretches for almost half the song, and then some singing and then som more improvised instrumental parts. The exceptions are the aforementioned single (which was re-recorded for the album) and 'Original Love', both of which are fairly straight-forward pop songs. If you could say straight-forward and pop song in the same sentence when talking about this band… 'Crazy Rhythms' is without doubt one of the true album masterpieces of our time, and I’m sure it will continue to influence bands for a long time, especiallý now when it’s easy to get your hands on again. It took five years for the Feelies to get back together again to record a follow-up album. Some members dropped off, and everyone was involved in other musical activities during the break, but with the addition of Brenda Sauter, Dave Weckerman and Stanley Demeski (a drummer that was also a member of Dean Wareham’s post-Galaxie 500 band Luna later on), they recorded 'The Good Earth', an album that was co-produced by their fan Peter Buck, better known as R.E.M.’s guitarist. This album turned out to be more pop orientated, and with less crazy rhythms, even though their old fans could get some of that too in songs like 'The Last Round-up” and 'Two Rooms'. But otherwise, Mercer and Million had put together ten more or less, here we go again, straight-forward songs. Just listen to the opener 'On the Roof' and 'Let’s Go' (which was featured in the movie 'The Squid and the Whale' back in 2006), and you will hear more poppy sounds than on the entire 'Crazy Rhythms' put together. With that said, I wouldn’t call the Feelies a pop band. Honestly, I don’t really know what to call them. Except a damn good band. That might be enough for now.

Picture Gallery:-
Feelies - Feelies

Feelies - Feelies

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