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Music Review: The Feelies – Crazy Rhythms

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Crazy Rhythms was the very definition of “Square Pegs” in 1980. All of the hipsters were listening to The Clash’s London Calling at the time. But there were a few of us music nerds who found The Feelies.

It was a small, secret club. In fact, I may have been the only member in my high school. But those songs! I still remember the day I bought it, taking a chance based on some reviews I had read. And how blown away I was when I played it the first time.

“There's a kid I know, but not too well, He doesn't have a lot to say”

Those first tap-taps that open Crazy Rhythms are so quiet, I wondered if I had gotten a defective album at first. Then they increased the tempo, and the guitars chimed in. “The Boy With The Perpetual Nervousness” builds to an almost anthemic finale. It is a statement of purpose, almost as if to say: “You have never heard anything like this before.”

Indeed, I had not.

As if to perpetuate their claim, song number two is The Feelies first single “Fa Ce-La,” an infectious piece of pop. Then comes “Loveless Love,” a song so impossible to explain, a song so incredible to hear. It is if every moment of all of your favorite tunes were distilled into one great one.

I had gotten lucky this time. Nine times out of ten I got burned when I bought a record based on reviews, before ever even hearing it. The only other time things had worked out was when I sprung for Television’s Marquee Moon. So the two became one of a piece to me, brothers in arms as it were.

There was something about the songs on Crazy Rhythms that defied easy categorization. The twin guitar sounds of Bill Million and Glenn Mercer on songs like “Forces At Work” and “Moscow Nights” were just amazing.

Then there is the Anton Fier workout on the title song. “Crazy Rhythms.” This is where the drummer’s legend was born. Even though this is clearly Fier’s showcase, the guitars sound superb as well.

In fact, every cut on this record is stellar, with the possible exception of the cover of The Beatles’ “Everybody’s Got Something To Hide (Except For Me And My Monkey).” Although some people swear by it, I find the original to be much more compelling.

In any event, Crazy Rhythms is a classic, and is finally being re-issued by Bar/None. In a nice marketing touch, the original LP version is coming out exactly as it appeared in 1980, and includes a download card, which gives fans free online access to bonus tracks.

The five extras on Crazy Rhythms include the single mix of “Fa Ce-La” from 1979, and demo versions of “Moscow Nights” and “The Boy With The Perpetual Nervousness.” The two demos feature jazz musician Carla Bley’s vocals for some reason. There are also two live tracks, recorded in March 2009 at a reunion gig.

All in all, this is an excellent package. If you have never heard Crazy Rhythms before, I suggest you take a chance. Yes, based on a reviewer’s opinion. It is a fantastic record.

About Greg Barbrick

  • zingzing

    heh. i like how your bio says nothing good has been recorded since 78… then this… but either way, you have a good ear. i love this record to no end. i do think they ride a velvet underground (think self-titled) vibe, so it isn’t completely without precedent, but it still is a marvelously original record. i saw them last year, opening for sonic youth on the 4th of july in nyc. this is one of those records where, from the opening notes, you know you’ve got something special.

    the late 70s/early 80s was a special time for music. judging by the albums you mention/append to the post, i highly suggest (if you haven’t already heard them) “dub housing” by pere ubu and the pop group’s “y.”

  • http://www.EurocriticsMagazine.com Christopher Rose

    I too love this album. I have it on vinyl and can’t wait to get my pre-ordered copy when it is released in the UK next week.

    I saw The Feelies play in London when the album came out and it is still a night I remember so vividly. Awesome!

  • Greg Barbrick

    Wow – I’m totally jealous! This record is so amazing. Without just gushing all over the place, I just have to say that I wish more people had heard it. It is as seminal (to me) as Marquee Moon by Television. The bonus tracks are pretty cool too.

    Greg

  • Greg Barbrick

    Zing,

    Thanks – obviously the ’78 comment was made in jest, but still…I wish I lived on the East Coast sometimes. I don’t think The Feelies have ever come this far out (I live in Seattle).

    To me, Crazy Rhythms never gets old. I get the VU comparison, but I think they did something unique. I just wish they had sustained that “crazy” feeling, and not “gone country” six years later.

    Some people think The Good Earth is the shit, but I’m not one of them.

    Greg

  • Greg Barbrick

    Zing – BTW I am a big fan of Ubu’s Dub Housing, but The Pop Group “Y” I am unfamiliar with. So it is worth seeking out?

    Greg

  • zingzing

    yeah. it’s another sonic world all its own. harsh vocals and scratchy guitars over one of the most expansive dub productions i’ve ever heard.

  • Greg Barbrick

    I always like hearing about “lost” recordings. I have heard of The Pop Group, but have not actually listened to them. Based on your recommendation, I will check ‘em out.

  • zingzing

    the pop group was incredibly difficult to locate, especially in america, for many years, although i think it’s a lot easier these days. they kinda strike me as a middle point between pere ubu and the birthday party.

    if you like dub, definitely check out the on-u sound label as well. it’s adrian sherwood’s house label, with himself as producer, dubbing out jamaican ridim sections with british post-punk guitarists and singers going nuts over the top. everything he put out from the late 70s til about 1984 or so is worth getting. and there’s lots of it.

  • Greg Barbrick

    Yeah zing On-U is definitely a cool label. Ever heard Mikey Dread? After hearing him on Sandinista! I went out and bought a couple of his records, excellent stuff.

  • zingzing

    ahh, i knew that i knew the name. i love sandinista. so many loose ends, which is a bit of a relief after how tightly controlled london calling ended up. i didn’t know he went solo, but i’ll check it out.

    i’m not sure, but i think i read somewhere that sherwood actually worked with the clash, dubbing out their live sound on one tour or another. kinda like what martin swope (and bob weston) did with mission of burma, i suppose.

  • zingzing

    ahh, and dread sang with singers and players, including “autobiography,” which is one of my favorite on-u songs. very cool.