In the age of the single download, Jeff Harford
rediscovers the album.
After six months or so in my possession, a borrowed copy of
the Feelies' 1980 album Crazy Rhythms was reluctantly
returned to its rightful owner. Withdrawal symptoms kicked
in, almost immediately.
Evidence will probably not bear this out, but I swear the
essence of blue vinyl is different from black. I wanted it
back. I missed the very smell of it.
This olfactory appeal coupled with the sun-bleached
perfection of the album's cover shot made the LP desirable
for reasons that on the one hand had nothing to do with the
New Jersey band's music, and on the other seemed to tell me
everything I needed to know about what would happen when I
set my turntable in motion.
Crazy Rhythms was fresh, preppy, pastel-hued and in every way
different from the dark and ominous remnants of the punk era
that it shared shelf-space with. Feeder veins in the Feelies'
sound stretched back to the Modern Lovers, further back to
the Velvet Underground, Can and Neu! and across to Talking
Heads, while others reached toward the future territory of a
thousand inferior jangle-pop bands.
As if to acknowledge its transitory nature, the music was
unassuming and completely devoid of grandiosity.
Which is not to say these songs lacked focus or intensity; on
the contrary. Four of the nine tracks clocked in at more than
five minutes courtesy of extended build-ups and/or
instrumental tails that, rather than being the product of
ecstatic jams, were studiously constructed exchanges between
the clean, like-sounding guitars of Glenn Mercer and Bill
Drummer Anton Fier's clipped, tom-tom heavy beats added a
nervy air, while cowbells, temple blocks, shakers and even
shoes and coat racks threw inventiveness into the ring.
Now returned to my collection, Crazy Rhythms takes pride of
place in a notional New Wave section. Sadly, it's not the
blue-vinyl edition. If you have it, could I borrow it?
Promise I'll give it back.