Reviewed by: Bryan Culver
Time is perhaps the most puzzling human construct. Sometimes, as deadlines approach, acute attention to each passing minute is required. Tight races come down to fractions of a second. And then, other times, your mind just drifts into the abyss. The passage of time is perhaps most fluidly conveyed through music.
The Feelies are a band that built a highly acclaimed early career utilizing accelerated tempos and syncopated layers of guitar to simulate the motion of time, best exemplified on their 1980 magnum opus Crazy Rhythms.
Now, on their 6th full-length album, In Between, 40 years have passed since the bands formation, and they once again revisit an old theme. Rather than the jittering post-punk of their early catalogue, The Feelies tone down the speed on In Between, and fall into a series of straight-forward pop tunes. Old friends congregate to break out their instruments to just jam. The band recorded the album in Glenn Mercer’s home studio, giving them ample time to flesh out new tunes. And while the songs are consistent, the material does feel a bit stretched and redundant. Take the track names for example and you kind of get the point: “Turn Back Time”, “Stay the Course”, “Pass the Time”, “When to Go”, “Time Will Tell”.
In Between also bursts with immense Dad rock vibes. To be fair, The Feelies were undercover Dad rockers at heart since their inception: Crazy Rhythm featured post-punk renditions of both The Rolling Stones and The Beatles. On In Between this persona is in full force, and reaches its peak on “Flag Days”, when they shamelessly blurt out: “hey now hey now / Come on baby / it’s alright / Come on darling.”
The Feelies have also always paid homage to the Velvet Underground (Their cover of What Goes On is exceptional, and they even toured with Lou Reed at one point). In Between is no exception and it’s difficult to listen through a single track without hearing this influence loud and clear. “Turn Back Time” with its dense stream of interwoven acoustic guitars and psychedelic chorus is a Loaded-era Velvets tune through and through.
Another standout is “Gone, Gone, Gone”, perhaps the closest track to a classic Feelies anthem, featuring rickety dueling guitars, and a moody chord progression.
The album ends by revisiting opening track “In Between (Reprise)”. If I was to choose one track from the album, this would be my pick. They break right into a disjointed Avant-rock jam heavy in feedback and static that continues to pick up speed over the course of its 9:23 duration. On Crazy Rhythms they sang about the boy with the perpetual nervous nervousness, now that boy has grown up and is sharing his sage wisdom that life goes on, “like a dream / in between / when you know / then you’ll know.” I guess it’s hard to deny the truth in that statement.
In Between is an easy album to listen to and digest, but also lacks a certain level of substance that keeps you interested. The more subdued approach, the acoustic guitars, and the lackluster lyrics all amount to a cohesive album that drags on but is more or less forgettable.