The Feelies, whose enduring cultural legacy is inspiring the covers of increasingly terrible Weezer albums, were always a victim of geography. If they had moved to New York City, they might have been as popular as their nervous punk and post-punk contemporaries. Instead, they were from Haledon, New Jersey, which is as good as saying you’re from Wichita, when it comes down to it. Instead, the Feelies languished in relative obscurity, and their excellent debut album, Crazy Rhythms, was left out-of-print until the folks at Bar/None gave it this loving reissue treatment.
Crazy Rhythms is perhaps the first album to have claimed the Velvet Underground and the Talking Heads as an influence, and then actually be both (a) excellent, and (b) sound deserving of those comparisons. The minimalist and relentlessly forward-moving guitar riffs and spartan drumming of the Velvets are present on opener “The Boy with Perpetual Nervousness,” album centerpiece “Forces at Work,” and the Feelies’ dementedly sparse and too-fast cover of the Beatles’ “Everybody’s Got Something to Hide Except for Me and My Monkey.” Lyrically, Feelies frontmen Glenn Mercer and Bill Million out-dorked Talking Heads and Devo combined, concerning themselves with feelings of uneasiness, loneliness and Soviets (peep “Moscow Nights”). This reissue is light on extras, but then again, so were the Feelies; they used a coat rack as a drum kit on one song here, which is as unlikely and incredible as it seems.
Crazy Rhythms proved to be too high of a bar for the Feelies to clear, as drummer Anton Fier and bassist Keith DeNunzio quit the band, leaving the band in tumultuous obscurity until it was revived with help from a super-fan, R.E.M’s Peter Buck. The Feelies may have never again recaptured the wily energy of Crazy Rhythms, but for one album, they were perfect.