The Feelies – Here Before
Record Label: Bar/None
Release Date: April 12, 2011
The Feelies were heroes of ‘80s college radio whose first two albums Crazy Rhythms (1980) and The Good Earth (1986) were American Underground landmarks. Here Before is the first new material the band has produced in two decades.
How Is It?
It shows that making music must follow the old bike-riding axiom, because The Feelies picked up right where they left off and sound very much like they never went anywhere. This sort of implies that Here Before must come off as a little bit dated, and to a degree, this is true. R.E.M. credited The Feelies’ Crazy Rhythms as an influence on their early records, and the influence seems to have come full circle. With its ringing guitar tones and nervy beats (even on the slower songs), there’s nothing on Here Before that Michael Stipe’s crew hadn’t already done musically by 1985. While not nearly as intrepid or groundbreaking as their debut was more than thirty years ago, it’s a surprisingly solid showcase of songwriting sensibility and proof positive that The Feelies still have it.
The band are certainly self-aware; on opener “Nobody Knows”, vocalist Glenn Mercer inquires, “Is it too late to do it again,” in a mature, almost haggard deadpan, a far cry from his adenoidal yelps of old. The answer to that question is immediately clear from the get go: No. While Mercer has assumed the timbre of the wise elder, the lively bass and perfectly executed Byrdsian chime of a tune like the standout “Should Be Gone” are Feelies touchstones that make their mark all over Here Before. When The Feelies allow their guitars to do more than just carry the songs along at a steady cadence, the occasional solos, as on “Again Today”, evoke the light powerpop flair of The Lemonheads.
Although there are songs like the soft “Bluer Skies”, which explores the band’s rustling folk side that emerged on The Good Earth, and the trance-inducing “Morning Comes”, which displays their rhythm-making skills being used for purposes other than to induce toe-tapping and head-bobbing, Here Before sounds interestingly youthful. Whatever it’s lacking in ingenuity, it more than makes up for in spirit. As far as comebacks go, you can’t ask for much more than the sturdy set of vibrant pop songs The Feelies have bestowed upon us.