Release Date: Apr 12, 2011
Record label: Bar/None
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Punk/New Wave, American Underground, Jangle Pop, College Rock
"Is it too late/To do it again?" asks Glenn Mercer on "Nobody Knows," opening this comeback by one of the greatest guitar bands of CBGB's Seventies heyday. "Fuck, no" is the obvious answer. Picking up pretty much where their last set, 1991's Time for a Witness, left off, the Feelies' music remains a template of formal perfection, like a holiday service at the VU Episcopal Church.
"Is it too late/To do it again?/Or should we wait/Another ten?" The Feelies have never been a band given to autobiographical self-reflection in their music, but the opening song on Here Before finds them seemingly pondering the wisdom of their own decision to re-form and return to the recording studio a full 20 years after their last album, 1991's Time for a Witness. But the Feelies needn't have worried -- one play confirms Here Before is excellent, an album that finds the band seemingly picking up where it left off and sounding as committed and invigorating as ever, reveling in the beauty and power of rhythm guitars and cracking percussion. Here Before features the complete Feelies Mk.
) The Feelies fifth album – their first for 20 years – reveals its pleasures slowly and unfussily. Bill Million and Glenn Mercer rarely raise their voices above a murmur, electric guitars pick careful paths across a bed of acoustics, and drums and bass motor along in a quiet background hum. Gradually, though, the eddies and whirlpools in this river make themselves apparent: Time Is Right's four-chord garage pop, the melancholy beauty of Morning Comes, the wistfulness of the title track – whose line "Everything looks familiar/ Like I've been here before" could be a description of the band easing themselves into writing and recording.
It may seem strange, but the new record by the Feelies sounds just like the old Feelies albums. Because 30 years have passed since the band’s first disc, Crazy Rhythms, and 20 years have gone by since its last release, Time for a Witness, one might think the group or its music had changed. Nope. From the first notes, a jagged acoustic guitar hook, the Feelies’ distinctive style is instantly recognizable.
Whenever a groundbreaking post-punk band reforms to release new material, there's the inevitable tendency to compare it to their earliest, trailblazing efforts. In the best-case scenario-- say, Mission of Burma or Wire-- we may marvel that artists in their fifties muster the same intensity as their twentysomething selves. But for the recently reunited Feelies, such considerations don't apply.
“Is it too late/To do it again?. . .
Since Haledon, N.J.'s most famous export put out Crazy Rhythms in 1980, a new generation of bands has taken apart their anxious post-punk puzzle and reshaped it to the point of caricature. The Feelies' latest album in 20 years certainly puts the punch line in the title, not to mention the opening track: "Is it too late to do it again?" There's a sense the 21st century Feelies aren't in it for the nostalgia, but rather to add another round to the quintet's tab. Guitarists Bill Million and Glenn Mercer still anchor every song, intertwining strum with tongue in cheek on "Again Today" and "Later On." If anything, Here Before echoes the pastel colors of 1986's The Good Earth, each song a subtle variant of the next, measured and metronomic.