Autumnal Scenes in Trash Heaps
It’s about this time of year when everyone finally gets around to pulling their sweaters from deep storage, pushing their shorts to the back of their drawers and piling boots and thick woolen slippers atop the flip-flops and the bathing suits collected on the floors of closets. So, too, do the autumnal albums get pulled from the stacks, the dust of summer shaken from mylar sleeves as the days begin to contract, an aperture tightening around the daylight.
There are certain records that just sound so perfectly seasonal, like their enjoyment is not fully realized unless it is coupled with the sound of leaves rustling outside of a window, or with the sight of spitting rain on the verge of freezing. All of the old slow dance records make their way into our playlists to mark the changing of the season, the Nina Simone records and the Low records, Chopin’s nocturnes and Leonard Cohen‘s dark reveries.
Though it may be due to some very literal references to the season, one of indie rock’s finest autumnal albums is Yo La Tengo‘s I Can Hear The Heart Beating As One. This record bears the very essence of a seasonal shift in that it is perfectly varied in its tone, mixing light-hearted pop, barn-burning guitar solos, and sweetly pensive fare, an apt soundtrack for the last few late-night drunken bike rides of the year, shortened afternoons in still-warm hammocks followed by pumpkin carvings, and the gray, sleet-soaked mornings that seem to stretch all the way to dusk as if the days themselves have a hard time rolling out of bed.
One of Yo La Tengo’s greatest strengths is their ability to build intense songs at a very slow and deliberate pace, gently leading listeners through songs that begin in near-silence and end in a deafening swirl of feedback and cymbal crashes. There are plenty of other modern bands that employ the slow build: Mogwai, Caspian, Godspeed, you black emperor, Maserati, and on and on. Krautrock is the most oft-cited rock influence for this technique; bands like Guru Guru, Neu!, Can, and others introducing the droning, guitar-driven crescendos that these modern bands have built upon.
But everyone who has ever uttered the words “indie rock” has most likely heard of Yo La Tengo, so this week, let’s lend our ears to another band from New Jersey that employed a slow, layering approach in their songs, The Feelies. Instead of layering with feedback, The Feelies built their songs up with the rhythm section, percussive noises falling upwards into tempo shifts; and with their signature dueling guitars, which trickled their way from simple rhythmic lines into fleet-fingered arpeggios and discordant riffs. Here’s a sample: The Boy With The Perpetual Nervousness, the lead off track to their 1980 debut LP Crazy Rhythms, backing a trailer to the early-80s NYC post-punk film, Smithereens.
Crazy Rhythms is punctuated by odd silences and lulls, interludes between jangly punk tunes that might cause casual listeners to wonder if something is wrong with the album they’re listening to. Taken as a whole, the album may suffer for it a little bit, but the individual songs that employ the build are perfectly crafted, and the guitar work here is simply immaculate. Even though they have two guitarists playing solos, the production is such that they never feel excessive. They add depth and dimension, and since the guitars are not overly distorted, they add an extra punch to the rhythm section.
The Feelies have recently been ramping back up. Bar/None Records reissued Crazy Rhythms and their second album, The Good Earth, last year, and the band has been playing gigs, most notably playing brief residencies at Maxwell’s in Hoboken. There are rumors of a new record coming out next year, so to celebrate the return of one of indie rock’s unsung heroes, let’s watch a video taken from the golden age of 120 Minutes, and dig into their debut album. Enjoy!
[audio:http://godonnybrook.com/home/media/Feelies/The%20Feelies_01_The%20Boy%20With%20The%20Perpetual%20Nervousness.mp3,http://godonnybrook.com/home/media/Feelies/The%20Feelies_02_Fa%20ce%20La.mp3,http://godonnybrook.com/home/media/Feelies/The%20Feelies_03_Loveless%20Love.mp3,http://godonnybrook.com/home/media/Feelies/The%20Feelies_04_Forces%20At%20Work.mp3,http://godonnybrook.com/home/media/Feelies/The%20Feelies_05_Original%20Love.mp3,http://godonnybrook.com/home/media/Feelies/The%20Feelies_06_Everybodys%20Got%20Something%20To%20Hide%20Except%20Me%20And%20My%20Monkey.mp3,http://godonnybrook.com/home/media/Feelies/The%20Feelies_07_Moscow%20Nights.mp3,http://godonnybrook.com/home/media/Feelies/The%20Feelies_08_Raised%20Eyebrows.mp3,http://godonnybrook.com/home/media/Feelies/The%20Feelies_09_Crazy%20Rhythms.mp3|artists=The Feelies,The Feelies,The Feelies,The Feelies,The Feelies,The Feelies,The Feelies,The Feelies,The Feelies|titles=The Boy With The Perpetual Nervousness,Fa ce La,Loveless Love,Forces at Work,Original Love,Everybodys Got Something To Hide Except for Me and My Monkey,Moscow Nights,Raised Eyebrows,Crazy Rhythms]
The Feelies – Crazy Rhythms (1980)
1. The Boy With The Perpetual Nervousness
2. Fa ce’ La
3. Loveless Love
4. Forces at Work
5. Original Love
6. Everybody’s Got Something to Hide (Except for Me and My Monkey)
7. Moscow Nights
8. Raised Eyebrows
9. Crazy Rhythms
Feelies Related articles
- Progress Report: The Feelies (stereogum.com)
- Song of the Day: The Quit ‒ Captains of Industry (kexp.org)
- Eiffel Tower Has That Certain ‘Je Ne Sais Quoi’ (chicagoist.com)
- The Feelies Plan First Album in Two Decades (pitchfork.com)