2017 seems already like a potentially great year for the return of middle-aged indie veterans. Following my post about Grandaddy's new record, Last Place, and with The Shins new album coming up the pike, here are The Feelies, who pre-date both those bands by the best part of a couple of decades and are back on their fortieth anniversary with the sixth album of their musical career, In Between.
The statistics above suggest that they're a band who know how to take their time, and everything on In Between gives credence to that idea. It all unwinds with the calm, ticking rationale of a grandfather clock in your parent's hall. It's all definitely about mortality, as the line of tall trees lining an avenue stretching into the distance on the sleeve suggests, there's a clinical simplicity about it all which is admirable. Almost as if the passing years, (and The Feelies must be pushing their sixties now, if they're not already there), mean there's less to say rather than more and it's just a matter of shifting gear occasionally and chugging on down that open road.
Track titles are brief and interchangeable, Turn Back Time, Stay The Course, Pass The Time, Time To Go, all about mortality as I've suggested and dealing with what you leave behind you on the road as you head onwards, as much as concern for what lies ahead, but it's all handled with an almost Buddhist, calm, acceptance. The songs for the most part are built on the bedrock of cool easy strumming that we know from Feelies records, going back to 1984's The Good Earth. Occasionally they switch gear towards the more fevered anxious gear of their 1980 debut record Crazy Rhythms and these moments hint at troubled emotions churning beneath the still surface and it's here when In Between moves into another dimension and signals itself as one of the best that The Feelies have made and also one of the best albums we're likely to hear in 2017.
This stuff exists in a noble tradition, a lineage; Heading back to The Velvet Underground most obviously and on from there past The Modern Lovers, Television, Talking Heads, R.E.M, The Go-Betweens, The Chills, (and the other Flying Nun bands), Galaxie 500 and Luna and onwards to the here and now to Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever, Chook Race and umpteen others. it seems this is a well that will never run dry.
I'm not sure how this record would sound to a sixteen year old, not so versed in this stuff as some of us oldsters. When I was sixteen I wasn't particularly interested in the idea of listening to records by rock bands in their late fifties. There actually weren't many if any at that point in time but now of course there are plenty, the sentiments behind The Who's 'Hope I die before I get old...' line seem almost redundant and thoughts turn instead while listening here to The Feelies to that Modern Lovers song 'Dignified and Old.'
In Between fits snugly into both descriptions. The Feelies were always the most nondescript of bands in terms of the way they presented themselves and the way the looked. They rarely attempted to impose a perspective, personality or worldview on you and this is essentially their guiding strength but also goes somewhere towards explaining why they always remained a cult concern for those who knew about and loved this kind of stuff.
It's difficult to know where they might go from here really because In Between is a definitive statement in many respects. 'Another day slips away...' they sing at one point and this is what the record is very much about. Taking a trek into the woods, the album opens with the sounds of birds chirping, a running stream and twigs snapping underfoot and this is the sense that I take from the record, 'like a dream, in between'. Look around you and continue to wonder. Never mordant or morbid in the way they deal with these preoccupations. 'It just is', the album seems to say. 'Get on with it!' An excellent record to say the very least!