In Between by The Feelies

Release date: February 24, 2017
Label: Bar/None Records

I’ve listened to The Feelies for more than thirty years now. I was lucky enough to see them live when they toured the superb Only Life album in 1988. Most of their albums sound similar, basically a variation of The Velvet Underground. Crazy Rhythms was the band at light speed, and In Between finds them at a comfortable cruising velocity. So what if it’s a variation on a theme? It’s a damned good formula, and it works for them. They’ve gotten so much mileage out of the same basic riffs that most bands would kill for these songs.

Truly, the sedate, pastoral texture of this new album suits them; it’s rather like the quieter feel of the third VU album. The opening title track alternates between crickets, birdsong, and that familiar acoustic strum which is one of the band’s hallmarks. The lyrics evoke the country, and you can imagine wide open spaces on a clear day. ‘Turn Back Time’ steps up the energy a bit, but retains the hushed feel of the first song. I love the chiming keyboards, which add a light touch to an already engaging tune. ‘Stay the Course’ unfurls gently and urges the listener to ‘keep on trying’ and ‘find out what you need’. It has a relaxing, chill vibe with perfectly executed passages.

‘Flag Days’ is a medium tempo gem, with vocals brought up front and center along with tasteful guitar. ‘Pass the Time’ is another catchy song, and it ends all too soon. ‘When To Go’ is layered with keyboards and slowly adds in layers of guitar. I like its laid back and somewhat somnolent feel. ‘Been Replaced’ definitely channels the late Lou Reed, and when I hear the words ‘with the radio on’, Jonathan Richman’s classic ‘Roadrunner’ comes to mind. It appears somebody is playing a recorder or similar instrument in the backdrop, but I cannot really place it. ‘Gone, Gone, Gone’ raises the roof a bit, a slight return and nod to their old material, with some squealing guitar that seems right at home in the midst of the quieter chaos surrounding it.

The band makes it all seem so easy and effortless, and maybe it is after so many years, but it’s not so easy to keep finding unique ways to repurpose old themes. This, they do extremely well, and maintain a singular sonic footprint despite their obvious influences. ‘Time Will Tell’ is stunning in its slow unveiling, and I like the way that the energy inches up gradually. ‘Make it Clear’ has sleigh bells, slide guitar, and possibly an accordion. Everything is perfectly placed in the mix, and my only complaint is how short the song is. Nice! ‘In Between (Reprise)’ is epic in length and closes the album. It has the requisite wails of feedback and I can imagine how well it would work in a live setting; here, it’s a bit of pleasant excess.

To close out, this is a great album from Haledon, NJ’s long running post punk/jangle pop masters. It doesn’t reinvent the wheel, and really, it doesn’t need to. It stands on its own as one of their finest albums, and Feelies fans will adore it.

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