The Feelies were to the 1980s what the Modern Lovers had been to the 1970s: a ferociously smart band that picked up the trail Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground had blazed. The Modern Lovers set the stage for punk; the Feelies helped make college rock possible.
They formed in New Jersey in 1976 and released their first album in 1980. Three albums followed, at irregular intervals—each of them different from the others, and not quite like anything else around. There were affinities, of course: R.E.M. has always cited the Feelies as an early, formative influence; bands like Wire and the Dream Syndicate were fellow travelers, and Yo La Tengo was another Jersey band that followed in the Feelies’ footsteps. (YLT’s founding members, Ira Kaplan and Georgia Hubley, met at a Feelies show.) But another recently reunited group—Mission of Burma—might have been the only ’80s band that matched the Feelies in both intelligence and intensity.
The Feelies sat out most of the next two decades; Here Before (out April 12 on Weehawken’s Bar/None records) comes after a 19-year hiatus. But they’ve aged gracefully if at all: Here Before kicks in just where the Feelies’ last LP, 1991’s Time for a Witness, left off. (Among other things, it’s the best driving album we’ve heard all year.) VSL subscribers can download our favorite track, “When You Know,” by clicking on the link below.
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