I discovered only by chance that Glenn Mercer, one of the key figures in one of my favorite bands of all time, the Feelies, put out a new solo album last year. This led me on a whole rediscovery-tour of the post-Feelies bands: Wake Ooloo, Wild Carnation (just ordered their 2006 Superbus), Speed the Plough, Yung Wu.
If you don’t know them, the Feelies started out on their first album with a sort of jittery New Wave hyper-strum (one song was aptly titled “The Boy With the Perpetual Nervousness”). Then the original rhythm section (including drummer Anton Fier) left, and with a new lineup they took a more pastoral turn on album two, The Good Earth, and finally settled into a Velvet-Underground-meets-Television groove for a handful of further albums before breaking up.
I loved pretty much everything they did, and when I pick up a guitar and idly strum, more often than not it’s one of their tunes. Their choice of covers was always spot on: you can find live recordings from the ’80s of them playing Jonathan Richman’s “Egyptian Reggae” and Wired’s “Outdoor Miner,” and Yung Wu, whose lineup seemed to include the entire Feelies, even recorded that wonderful Brian Eno/Phil Manzanera ditty, “Big Day”.
I don’t think they were capable of recording a bad track, and at their best (as on “Higher Ground”) the exquisite guitar leads are like a flight of angels. But their vocals were always modestly buried in the mix (I think this heavily influenced early REM) and they never found the following they deserved.
Now, according to the Feelies Myspace page, it appears the Feelies are reuniting to play some dates in NY over July 4. Too bad I won’t be there.
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