Yes, all hell appears to be breaking loose around us these days. But – sssh – listen…Crackling. Crickets. Chirping birds. A gentle percussion sound. A gentle guitar. Three-syllable lines, recited gently. The song’s (three-syllable) title is “In Between.” It’s also the name of the album.
Another three-syllable song title follows (“Turn Back Time”), guitars not as gentle this time. The Crazy Rhythms sound (this band’s debut album from 1980) is key here, that alterna-strumming heard all over the soundtrack to Susan Seidelman’s 1982 movie Smithereens. Smith-er-eens. (For the record, this band made an appearance in another 1980s film, Jonathan Demme’s Something Wild. Counting syllables?)
Next, another (“Stay the Course”), as the music gets more and more mesmerizing…
Just for a curve ball, the only song on the album without a three-syllable title, “Flag Days,” takes off with more of an electric edge, a deeper atmosphere. And borrowing from the Beach Boys’ “Do It Again” as they chant “Hey now, hey now” – wait a second, what’s all this four-syllable stuff?
Oh good, back to three (“Pass the Time”) and back to another sound out of the past: the elegant “Slipping (Into Something)” from the group’s 1986 record (and three-syllable title), The Good Earth.
Another gentle moment, “When to Go,” goes nicely with the album cover photo of a view down the center of two rows of tall trees against a drab but peaceful gray sky.
Now. NOW. The band hits their stride with a Velvet Underground groove and a Modern Lovers favorite phrase – “With the radio on.” It’s “Been Replaced” and it’s the best track on this album so far.
Keep it up! That Crazy Rhythms feel is back with “Gone Gone Gone” (whoa, not just three syllables, three of the same word!). Now this song’s the best one.
Then “Time Will Tell.” Dant-dant-dant. One-two-three.
And “Make It Clear.” A nice three-chord recipe with a pinch of sleigh bells and a dash of accordion.
Finally, “In Between (reprise).” A nine-minute (that’s 3 x 3, you mathematicians), three-ring thrill-ride of darkness and distortion, of screaming, of howling, of a 40-year-old band stretching, groaning, rocking like pretty much nothing they’ve ever done before. This is the album’s greatest moment. Or nine moments. Or three syllables.
photo courtesy http://www.cityparksfoundation.org
The band is The Feelies. The band’s guiding lights, producers, songwriters, and singer-guitarists since day one are Glenn Mercer and Bill Million. Check out all those names – one-two-three – all around. And still in The Feelies since the mid-80s are drummer Stanley Demeski, bassist Brenda Sauter, and percussionist Dave Weckerman.
The album is their sixth, In Between, due for release next month. And their first since 2011’s Here Before (anybody still counting syllables here?). It’s also one of their best – perhaps their finest since Crazy Rhythms – a perfect balance of tension and tenderness. The Feelies have grown older and wiser, and have taken their strumming, shimmering layers of jangle-pop to new heights while maintaining an artistic integrity that tops, well, most other artistic integrities. All such strum and shimmer displayed by any given twenty-first-century indie band owes its very existence to, among others, The Feelies and the vision of Messrs. Mercer and Million.
One! Two! Three!
photo courtesy http://www.thefeeliesweb.com