Devices off. Full attention, please. We have come to pay homage to The Feelies.
It's safe to say very few of you know them. Well, that's almost by design. This band formed in suburban New Jersey in 1976. In the `80s, they released --- very quietly --- four records, each causing modest swooning. By 1988, when they put out "Only Life," savvy critics were calling them "the best underrated band in America."
And then they went on hiatus.
For 19 years.
Now, with "Here Before," they're back.
Already certain ideas are occurring to you. Those titles --- could they be more laconic, more ironic? That subterranean status --- could it have been what the band wanted? Detached excellence --- could that have been their point?
These are the opening lines of the new CD, from a song called --- two words again --- "Nobody Knows."
Is it too late
to do it again?
Or should we wait
To pose that question is delicious arrogance, isn't it? But self-assurance is a given in Feelieland. These are supremely confident nerds of the art school breed: mostly tall, skinny, bespectacled, with a female bass player for variety. Stage presence? Casual. In the extreme. At one of their rare --- thus: historic --- concerts, when they crank the tempo and build to something like a rave, they have been known to jerk around, sometimes bouncing, even jumping. Smiles? Banter? Never happened.
So it's really all about the music, isn't it? Here it gets thorny, because words turn into salad here. The Feelies influenced R.E.M. and were influenced by Lou Reed, but they're far more subtle and sophisticated than either. And even that's not quite accurate, because their music seems so simple --- it's built on three guitars. There are two drummers, but it's not as if they're loud. What, then, is the big deal?
The big deal is punk meets J.J. Cale meets The Byrds meets the Thirteen Floor Elevators meets Indian raga meets surf music meets the Velvet Underground. Country western dance band. Movie soundtrack rock and roll....when the general mood of the movie is urban and cool and observant, smart without being ambitious
But let me stop reaching. Just listen.....