The Feelies – In Between

by Freq | 2017-02-21T16:47:44+00:000000004428201702 16:47


The Feelies - In BetweenForty years after forming, it is nice to welcome back The Feelies with their sixth studio album in all that time and the second since they reconvened in 2008. The band, which still contains founding members Bill Million and Glenn Mercer (who are still writing together), have not really changed their formula too much since 1978. They were one of the lucky bands to release a single on Terry Ork‘s New York label, along with Television, Richard Hell and others. However, the sound of NY punk was not for them and they tended more towards the pastoral sounds of the third Velvet Underground album.

The new album finds them in similar territory, but with a band that releases albums at a Blue Nile sort of rate, it is always a pleasure to hear something new and Mercer and Million still have a few tricks up their sleeves to keep the listener guessing. I think fans of the band are always prepared for a variation on the theme of “I’m Set Free”-mood Velvet Underground, but only tracks one and five tend to plough that furrow. Whereas Lou Reed‘s lyrics tended towards the darker avenues, The Feelies have more of a healthy glow to them and the vocals are hushed, happy to occupy space in the background. They have less of a city feel and more of a rural landscape; there is space and gentleness in the songs, and the feeling of moving imperturbably through a tranquil landscape.

At times the songs really swing, but with the band’s judicious use of minor chord guitar changes, there is a sense of melancholy at times — or if not melancholy, then just that overwhelming sense we all have sometimes where you look around at the beauty of things and release a big sigh. Some of these songs are like those big sighs; beauty for beauty’s sake. The use of Spanish guitar on track six evokes orange trees and warm Californian skies whereas the urgent yet hypnotic propulsion of track eight with its minimal vocals and vibrant feel echoes the kind of hiccupping Americana that comes out of the Midwestern states, all widescreen drifts and dustbowl vistas.

As I said, the reliance on VU is marked by its absence on this album; there is a nod to Jonathan Richman here and there. Some of the tracks contain that sort of innocent pop sensibility for which he is renowned, but here, they show really nicely that he is not the only one. They even are in touch with their inner psych-rocker on the final track with a Heads/Spacemen 3 bassline that comes as quite a surprise. Having said that, maybe it is not such a surprise. Under most of the songs’ melodic lines lay sturdy basslines that have one foot in the motorik camp and ally to the simple drum patterns in such a way that you find yourself drifting down long tree-lined roads with the band, the vocals a hushed murmur in your ear, a telling of confidences.

Only once do the vocals become slightly more forceful: on track four, the urgent mantra “C’mon darling” pierces the haze, but generally the voice is that of a confidante, which is in keeping with the general sound of the album. Apparently, most of In Between was based on demos the band made in their rehearsal space and it does have that kind of freedom of sound that evolves from recordings made in the comfort of one or two takes.

Although The Feelies in no way rush to release their material, when they do it is well worthwhile and I am pleased to say that In Between is no exception.

-Mr Olivetti-

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