The Good Earth
By David Chiu
Right after Talking Heads and years before Vampire Weekend and Weezer, the Feelies emerged with their brand of brainy (okay, geeky) alternative rock music. The band from Haledon, New Jersey made few albums during their existence together during the ‘80s but their impact has been tremendous on many guitar-oriented modern rock bands that came after them. Last year the band reunited for some shows, including opening for Sonic Youth, and will be playing two sets at Brooklyn’s Southpaw on Sept, 13. Coinciding with the reunion are the reissues of the Feelies first two albums, now considered classics.
The band’s 1980 debut, Crazy Rhythms, lives up to its title. Like perhaps The Velvet Underground or Television’s debut albums, the Feelies’ first record is something that has not been heard in rock before or after. The best way to describe the sound is dissonant and minimalist pop music—it’s melodic in one sense because of the echoing guitar work of singers Glenn Mercer and Bill Million; and yet the rhythms, courtesy of drummer Anton Weird and bassist Keith DiNunizo, are jagged along with the detached vocals delivery. But there is no questioning the influence of post-punk sounds on the band’s stellar debut, especially on the excellent “Raised Eyebrows,” “The Boy With the Perpetual Nervousness” and “Fa Ce La,” and the driving punkabilly-like title track. (There’s also a manic cover of the Beatles’s “Everybody’s Got Something to Hide (Except for Me and My Monkey)”).
The Feelies took six years to record their sophomore album. By then Fier and DiNunzio were out and replaced by drummer Stanley Demeski (later of Luna) bassist Brenda Sauter, and percussionist Dave Weckerman. That second album, The Good Earth sounds a bit more mainstream, conventional, and rootsy compared to Crazy Rhythms. But it’s definitely not a sell-out. If some of the tracks sound a bit like R.E.M. (the title song, “On the Roof,” “Let’s Go”), it may be due to the fact that Peter Buck co-produced the album. The Good Earth may not be as cutting edge as Crazy Rhythms but it’s nevertheless a strong follow-up.