Monday, November 1, 2010

The Feelies - Crazy Rhythms (1980)

I came across Crazy Rhythms in a coughing fit of serendipity during my Junior year of college. I was sifting through the university’s music library in a fruitless pursuit of some material by The Freshies, when I happened across a charming sky blue album cover with four goofy-looking white guys smirking knowingly back at me. I knew nothing of the critical fawnery this album had inspired over 30 years ago; I was going off little more than a dumb gut reaction to some interesting artwork and a vague familiarity with the name. And that title, Crazy Rhythms – how could I not be a little curious?

It turns out that happenchance wins out again, because this is the kind of album that inspires genuine thanks for your luckily-aligned musical stars. The Feelies’ 1980 debut is at once maniacally restless and unfailingly well-mannered. The constant momentum of the band’s frenzied rhythm section, composed of two full drum kits and an exhaustive arsenal of auxiliary percussion, lays the framework for a viscerally exciting record filled with equal measures of patient slow-burners and momentous ruckuses.

That said, Crazy Rhythms doesn’t play hard to get. Each song, from the jittery in-and-out pop gem “Fa Cé-La,” to the nearly instrumental and all-around ass kicker “Raised Eyebrows,” are all instantly likeable. Somehow the record’s competing dynamics never seem engaged in a shouting match with each other; they sound impossibly cohesive, always operating in conjunction rather than competing for space, even as Glenn Mercer mumble-croons about “The Boy with Perpetual Nervousness” over a seasoned layer of busy – nay, crazy – rhythms and bright, jangle-buzzed guitars.

You could say that these nine muscular pop songs sound like The Modern Lovers trying to break out of an afro-beat drum circle, or that they’re an early nod to the rash of nice-guy alt-rock that populated much of the early-to-mid-90’s. But the safest thing to say about this album is that it is consistently forward-looking. It’s brainy, but not egg headed; accessible, but far from pedestrian. And now seems a better time than any to throw some well-deserved bloglight at Crazy Rhythms, considering last week’s press release announcing that Bar/None will be the proud home of the newly-reunited Feelies’ first album in nearly 20 years. This will be the band’s first release featuring the full original line-up since 1980. Get excited and keep your ear to the grindstone.

Rating: 9/10



  1. Personal rating, in case anyone should be interested:
    One of the records that make me keep faith in rock music.
    Thanks for the blog!

  2. You're quite welcome. Thanks for reading, Benoit