Fresh - and desirable for several reasons

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 Million.

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.


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