Album Review – Crazy Rhythms by The Feelies (1980) (Stiff Records)

I once watched a documentary about a tribe in Papua New Guinea where young teens climb up a 300 foot rope ladder to some rickety old platform and throw themselves off with only a vine rope of 299 feet saving them from certain death. The pain of the various dislocations is supposed to send them into manhood.

In my British teenage years the nearest we had to such rites of passage was desperately trying not to cough when having your first tab (cigarette), avoiding vomiting when imbibing a thimble full of cheap ’99p for 19 litres Cider’ and a bit of violent game called ‘bundles’, which was essentially one spotty youth screaming ‘bundles’ at at another which was a signal for all around to pile on and kick 10 types of crap out of each other. Simple, sore, but with not quite so many dislocations as the vine jumpers.


No one ever really knew who was the ultimate victor of bundles as few ever really escaped without varying degrees of blood seeping from some sort of ‘war wound’ but it was all good harmless violent fun, kind of like rugby without a ball or the forward passing rugby that American chaps play with a crash helmet and various other health and safety gear on.

This, The Feelies debut album, provides the whole ‘bundles’ experience but in musical form. Although not particularly violent in nature it has a characteristic where everything seems to pile into each other and nothing ever seems to win. For instance the very first track, The Boy With Perpetual Nervousness, has all the instruments vying for your immediate attention, with the drums and bass pounding and rumbling away, whilst the acoustic thrums of the guitar remains insistent and niggling in the background whilst still appearing a tad bullied. 

It all adds up to a kind of jangle/guitar pop aesthetic that is more musically coherent band than Wire but ultimately one that displays similar characteristics of spiky angularity and fretfulness which is accentuated further in tracks such as Loveless Love (see below), the epic Forces at Work and brilliant Moscow Nights (see below) which resplendent with chunky post-punk style bass rhythms woven into the idiosyncratic jangle-pop fabric.

Moscow Nights

However to dismiss the album as merely one of jangled neurosis and nervous energy would be to deny some of the better parts of the album inasmuch that the shorter, sub three minute tracks, tend to nearly (although never entirely) break free from the awkwardness of the musical anxiety. For instance a track such Fa Ci La starts of with a crunchy almost psychedelic riff, which intermittently is broken up by the cod-pop of the ‘Fa Ci La’ chorus which is the nearest The Feelies ever tip-toed towards pop. 

Of course they punish themselves for such jauntiness at the end of the track by ending it with a screaming distorted riff and feedback, but by this time the damage is done and we know they are capable of something more melodic and conventional in song structure. 

Such potted melodies are also seen in A track such as Painted It Black and the truly inspired Original Love (see below), which is best described as The Woodentops having a grumble.

Original Love

This album was undoubtedly essential to the various indie movements of the 1980’s as it could be argued that it acted as an influence to both the deep, chunky, rumbling bass and mumbled deep vocals of the post-punk genre and the prettier guitar pop insistence of the mid 1980’s jangle-pop bands / college rock bands.

Either way after nearly 40 years of listening to it, I still find something new or intriguing upon every listen. This is without doubt doubt the highest testament I can pay to the brilliance of this album. 

Artist Links

Bandcamp (Buy It Here) 
Twitter
Facebook

Label Links

Twitter
stiff-records.com 
bestiff.co.uk
MySpace
Facebook

2 comments

  1. Excellent read, thanks! Crazy Rhythms really does stand out; not only among it's peers at the time, but also in the context of the rest of The Feelies' output.If there is any chance you haven't already, make sure to listen to the recently reissued Yung Wu record “Shore Leave”; the “side project” which grew out of the 6-year period between Crazy Rhythms and The Good Earth as The Feelies shook out and re-formed.

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