Schizomusica readers probably know by now that the Feelies are a favorite on this blog. And this is a big month Feelies-wise, with three sold-out shows at Brooklyn’s Rough Trade NYC on April 13-15 and the first-ever CD/digital release of Shore Leave, the obscure and long out-of-print 1987 album by Feelies re-shuffle Yung Wu, on April 21. Re-shuffle because Yung Wu is essentially the Feelies with percussionist Dave Weckerman as singer/songwriter (and keyboardist John Baumgartner, of other Feelies side projects the Trypes and Speed the Plough, thrown in). Looking at the album cover (and the band name) one might be prepared for a collection of Chinese folk songs…the name did actually originate from a (mispronounced) take-out menu item, and the cover art of Red Chinese sailors was opted over a standard band photo.
Shore Leave was recorded in eight days in 1987 at Hoboken’s Water Music studio. Weckerman was armed with eight songs – not enough to fill an LP – so the band tossed in three covers: the lovely Eno composition “Big Day” from Phil Manzanera’s 1975 album Diamond Head, the Rolling Stones b-side “Child of the Moon,” and Neil Young’s iconic “Powderfinger.” The end result is a pleasant blend of folk-rock-pop-psych with “The Empty Pool” (covered by Yo La Tengo on their Ride the Tiger album the year before), “Aspiration,” “Spinning,” and the complex guitar collage “Eternal Ice” as the standout Weckerman originals. Overall a bit more laid-back than the frenetic new-wave of the Feelies’ 1980 debut Crazy Rhythms – and heading in the direction the band would take on The Good Earth and subsequent albums. And with that same lineup, the lineup that continues today: guitarists Glenn Mercer and Bill Million, bassist Brenda Sauter, drummer Stanley Demeski, and of course percussionist Mr. Weckerman.
The Weckerman effect…in black…and blue
The songs on Shore Leave are rooted in mellow, what-would-later-be-called-jangle-pop, but with Weckerman’s nervous intensity front-and-center. Witness his piercing gaze and darkly-clothed presence in the background at any Feelies performance, as he quickly switches from maracas in one hand to drumstick in the other, and you’ll know from whence we speak. And on that note, if you didn’t snag tickets for the Feelies at Rough Trade NYC, they’re also appearing in Washington, DC and Carrboro, North Carolina in June.
Yung Wu performing at Hoboken train station, May 17, 1987
Images courtesy rateyourmusic.com, bar-none.com/J. Baumgartner, willyoumissme.com, elmoremagazine.com, youtube.com
YouTube videos courtesy monty4921