- by Kevin Orton Release Date:2017-02-24 Label: Bar None Records
The Feelies’ latest, In Between, begins with the sound of a summer day before the gorgeous title track kicks in. Gentle vocals, soft persistent acoustic guitars, just the right knock of percussion. It’s the sound of strolling around in a dream state, with the rest of the city rushing past you. The jauntier ‘Turn Back Time’ invites you do so with the gentle purr of a cricket. It’s what the Feelies do best. Intimately whispered vocals and soft, buoyant jangle Pop melodies that rock the cradle of reverie but never tip the boat into excess. Since reforming in 2011, In Between is their first album in quite some time. Suffice it to say, this is well worth the wait. It’s a release that coincides with the band’s 40th anniversary. That’s right, 40 years. Not that it shows. They sound more fresh and vital than ever.
“Keep on trying,” Glenn Mercer whispers, on ‘Stay the Course’. It's less a cheering on, and more a reminder in the face of soul crushing adversity. “Are you dreaming in real time, like a weekend back in ‘89’, Mercer asks on ‘Flag Days’. And that perfectly captures the mood here. The years may have caught up, but the old flame still burns. There aren’t many rock songs about middle age but the Feelies are not only willing to admit it, they’ll tell you, “it’s alright, it’s alright”.
‘Pass the Time’ is exemplary Feelies. Stripped down, punchy and intimate. Where many bands try to blow you away, the Feelies slip under the door and loiter in the back of your mind. Wasting time has never sounded so good.
The Feelies' guitar sound has always been in what I would call the sweet spot. The forlorn, ‘When to Go’ is no exception. Beautiful and haunting, with a lovely acoustic solo. It's music that seems unconcerned with the hustle and bustle of daily life, preferring to frequent those shadowy corners of the room, the sun can’t quite touch.
The white noise and static of ‘Been Replaced’ jars you out of the dream state. The guitars are a little more insistent, eventually creeping up on you. A menacing flute hangs out in the background, making the proceedings more unsettling. “Went to the show, oh why did I go, they all seem the same, oh who can you blame?”
‘Gone Gone Gone’ continues to drive things along, managing to be both resigned and yearning. The momentum builds and builds only to back off and fade out. It’s one of In Between’s standout tracks.
The same can be said of the pastoral, ‘Time Will Tell’. One can truly hear Television’s influence here with the chiming guitars. Round and round they go, over a softly strummed bed of acoustic guitars. One thing that strikes you on ‘Time Will Tell’ and the rest, is how truly well mixed and recorded this album is. It takes real skill to be this low key and unassuming, yet still command attention. Drawing the listener in without trying to beat you over the head. In a musical era where contrivance rules the day, it’s refreshing to hear something this honest and unadorned.
The album ends with a reprise of the title track, this time far more aggressive. Rather than fade off after a couple of minutes, we go on a Velvet Underground style freak out until the track finally ends nine minutes later. In the hands of another band, this would come off as pure indulgence. Here the Feelies live up to their moniker by putting a ton of emotion into the fray. It’s an unexpected end to an unexpected album. In the end, I really have no other words to describe In Between other than, beautiful. Aptly titled, this record is one that truly gets into those in between places. A most welcome return.