HEY! Get updates to this and the CD and 7" blogs via Twitter: @VinylUnderbite

15 September 2014

The Feelies - 'Crazy Rhythms' (Stiff)

I listen to this record quite often. It somehow cuts through the familiarity that saturates so many other albums from this time; the songs have seeped deep into my cortex, with every note and tom-tom tap memorised to the point of instinct, yet it doesn't feel like I'm on a mental autopilot when listening to it. This early Feelies lineup is so different than their subsequent albums, probably due to the presence of Anton ("Andy") Fier, who left after this record. The opening cut is pretty much the roadmap - 'The Boy with the Perpetual Nervousness', which explicitly lays out the nervous energy that made this early lineup so great. It's a song where only Bill Million plays any guitars, a studio assemblage for sure, and the rest of the band is on various percussion. Larks Tongues in Aspic this is not; I wish I could say layered guitars were influenced by Glenn Branca, but I doubt it; it's jittery, tight and coherent, but succinct and still a pop song. The more catchy songs, like 'Crazy Rhythms' and 'Moscow Nights', could be punk thrashers with different production and a different singer. In the voices of Million and Glenn Mercer, it's comes off as some hybrid of R.E.M. and Mission of Burma (both of whom the Feelies pre-date). It's all good, though. Nothing stays beyond its welcome, even the seven minute 'Forces at Work'; when the contrapuntal ascending and descending guitar lines break out at the end of 'Loveless Love', it fades out before it starts to be show-offy. This is a total guitar album; 'Forces at Work' is epic in the way it crescendos, yet it's never jerkoff Yngvie-style stylings - the players aren't necessarily virtuosos on the fretboards, but they have a masterful way of assembling things. The vibe of Crazy Rhythms is fun and hyper without being overly aggressive, and the fashion of the members from the cover and liner photos is so proto-indie chic it would be a clichĂ© if this wasn't 1980. The Beatles cover is just in line with the rest of it, and it doesn't feel silly or gimmicky. This is a great band and this is a great debut, and it's nice that they change gears so abruptly on their next album (which took six years to come out!).  I don't have a bad thing to say here, nor anything insightful either; I feel like I've just been describing this record by pointing out how balanced it is and what it is not, more than what it is. I'll tell you this - I throw on 'Moscow Nights' or 'Crazy Rhythms' some time just when I want to jump around and play a weird sort of air guitar, and I'm glad no one sees me doing so.

No comments:

Post a Comment