Tuesday, January 9, 2007

The Feelies - Crazy Rhythms

The Feelies
Crazy Rhythms

The first thirty seconds of Crazy Rhythms is silence. When The Feelies decide to start playing they come in quietly before slowly building volume over the next four minutes. It's restraint unlike almost any other sound being made in 1980, and they have it throughout the entire record, designing a basic blueprint for the twee movement. It should sound old after twenty-seven years - and its sampling by Calvin Johnson, Luna, and, even Weezer, who copied their cover - but somehow it still manages to be vital.

Alternately spastic and whispered, all while being brilliantly catchy, Crazy Rhythms is almost the perfect record store album: it's simultaneously mysterious and endearing. (I heard it for the first time at Cake Shop.) Unlike a lot of those type of records, however, it holds up even better when you take it home, and there are too many great moments here to delve into any sort of overview, so I"ll just give one.

"Moscow Nights" also opens with silence. Then the twitchy guitar part finally arrives, building up tension through which singer Glenn Mercer tries to break. "All you really wanted / was to be alone for a little while / How was I to know that?" he asks. Still, as in almost every song, he's conflicted: "It seemed like an eternity." Does he win the girl? Does he even want to? No one's quite sure, least of all the listener. The imprecision allows you to squint. You can hear what you want to hear. Like all of the best pop music, it sounds best that way.

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