Artists-On-Albums: AOA#13 (Dean Wareham on Crazy Rhythms)

Dean Wareham (Dean & Britta, Luna & Galaxie 500) on…

The Feelies’ Crazy Rhythms (Stiff Records, 1980)

The Feelies - Crazy Rhythms

1980 saw the release of some of great albums: Colossal Youth by Young Marble Giants, London Calling by The Clash, Closer by Joy Division, and – my favourite – Crazy Rhythms by The Feelies.  I was 16 years old when I read about The Feelies in the pages of the Village Voice and ran out to buy a copy of this debut album. Released in 1980, so it occasionally pops up on lists of great albums of the ’80s, and yet it more properly belongs in 1979 (when it was recorded).

I came home from a record store on West 8th St, placed this on the turntable and was hooked from the opening seconds of “The Boy With Perpetual Nervousness,” which creeps in slowly with lonely percussion and a couple of strummed strings before the whole band finally hits after at the one-minute mark. The album is full of songs that fade in and out; a trick The Feelies would actually replicate live.

The Feelies are a guitar band, built on Bill Million’s tense strumming and Glenn Mercer’s Fripp-ish, droning leads. But percussion features as prominently as the guitars. Reportedly a lot of the guitars were plugged directly into the recording console, rather than played through amps and miked up. And not unlike Joy Division’s albums of the same period, the drum tracks were recorded one at a time, which takes the music far from the realm of a straight rock band. Occasionally you sense drummer Anton Fier sitting behind an actual drum kit, but more often it is just layers of people banging things: snare drum, hand-clap, clave, woodblock and coffee can. The chord progressions are simple as can be, but there is a density and structural complexity to each song (check the amazing “Raised Eyebrows” and “Crazy Rhythms” that close the album out), and to the record as a whole; there is not a moment wasted from the first note to the last. It is simultaneously minimal and complex; and I never tire of listening to it.

One particular English music critic wrote dismissively of The Feelies recently, as being exemplary of a wave of retro college rock, but he must have missed Crazy Rhythms entirely, an album that has more in common with Brian Eno, Steve Reich, Devo and Wire than it does with Neil Young or The Beatles (whose “Everybody’s Got Something To Hide (Except For Me And My Monkey)” is rendered here in a way that recalls Devo’s angular version of “Satisfaction.”

After Crazy Rhythms, The Feelies disappeared, reappearing only on holidays it seemed. I saw them at Jonathan Swift’s basement club in Boston, where I admit I threw a Curious George monkey onstage as they played that Beatles track, then later at Danceteria and the Peppermint Lounge in New York. After a 7-year hiatus they released The Good Earth, a more traditional rock album, but a great one also.

Favorite line:

“You remind me of a TV show; that’s all right, I’ll watch it anyway.”

Notes On The Artist:

Dean Wareham (by Danny Hole, 2010)

Dean Wareham was the singer and guitarist for the much-revered Galaxie 500 (1987-1991) and the too often overlooked Luna (1991-2005). Since Luna’s demise, Wareham has been cutting a refreshed musical career with ex-Luna bassist (and now wife) Britta Phillips, under the Dean & Britta umbrella, as both a film soundtrack vehicle and a lush art-pop duo.

Most recently, Dean & Britta have been touring their alluring 13 Most Beautiful… Songs For Andy Warhol’s Screen Tests project, that appeared on DVD in 2009 via Plexifilm and which is to be released in expanded form as a 2CD affair this July on the duo’s own Double Feature Records.

Retrospectively-speaking, Wareham also published his illuminating and candid memoirs, Black Postcards in 2008 (which is out now in paperback) and has been acknowledging this year’s reissues of the Galaxie 500 catalogue (on Domino and 20|20|20) by planning a special ‘Dean Wareham Plays Galaxie 500’ live show for this coming September.

Visit: www.deanandbritta.com | www.fullofwishes.co.uk

Trackbacks

  1. […] Wareham on Crazy Rhythms June 14, 2010 – 2:32 pm Dean Wareham has written about his love for Crazy Rhythms by The Feelies in Delusion of Adequacy's latest feature in their Artists on Albums […]