Even at their peak, The Feelies were not the most prolific of groups, but this fifth album appears almost exactly twenty years after the fourth, making it a substantial wait for even long term Feelies fans.The group’s phenomenal 1980 debut Crazy Rhythms was one of the dozen greatest records of the twentieth century and it was no surprise that it took the group six years to follow it up, coming up with a new slant for 1986’s The Good Earth. The group’s new approach rejected their début nervous rhythmic experimentation for what seemed like a distillation of all that was great in traditional American underground rock ‘n’ roll, taking the Velvet Underground’s Live 1969 as a definitive year zero blueprint.
1988’s Only Life and 1991’s Time for a Witness followed the blueprint, all standard chord sequences, flat delivery and ultra-neutral song titles (“Let’s Go,” “Slow Down,” “Too Much,” “For Awhile,” “Find a Way,” “For Now”), but somehow this reductionism served to purify the tainted rock world of the period and these seemingly interchangeable and anonymous albums became some of the most durable records to come from that period. Glenn Mercer’s 2007 solo album Wheels in Motion was a timely reminder of how much The Feelies were missed and is a fine record in its own right, if not quite The Feelies. It was a very pleasant surprise a couple of years later then, to hear that Mercer had finally made contact with old sparring partner Bill Million and reformed The Feelies. A couple of reunion gigs showed (via YouTube) that they had lost none of the old chemistry.And now a brand new album of new material! So what does it sound like? Well, exactly like all the other Feelies albums since 1986, which is definitely a positive thing. Like the Ramones or Motörhead, The Feelies long since perfected the formula and see absolutely no reason to divert from it in the slightest. As the record’s penultimate track “On and On” succinctly puts it “On and on / Same old song / On and On / All night long.” The only departure on Here Before is the absence of cover versions, at least one of which has appeared on all their previous albums (if only as bonus material in the case of The Good Earth). From the album title in, we still have that neutrality – sample track titles: “Later On,” “Way Down,” “So Far…” and the same three chord, 4/4 structure and catchy tunes as before… there’s really not much to say about it other than if you like rock music, you should like The Feelies, and if you like The Feelies, you’ll certainly like Here Before.
The opening song asks “Is it too late to do it again / or should we wait another ten?” before the chorus responds “no one ever knows how it’s gonna go”… well no, we don’t, but it’s certainly nice to have you back! Here Before is another great Feelies record.