Picks and Pans Review: Crazy Rhythms

updated 10/15/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 10/15/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT

The Feelies

Way back in 1980, four guys in Hoboken, N.J., who called themselves the Fee-lies recorded Crazy Rhythms, a rock album never released in the U.S. until now. A lot has changed since 1980 for the Feelies: The band is now a quintet, and it has released two albums that were college-radio hits. But, as the belated release of Crazy Rhythms proves, the passing of a decade isn't enough to make the Feelies sing a new tune.

Crazy Rhythms sounds much like the albums that followed it, which is a compliment. Then as now, the band's distinct style demolishes typical pop-music priorities. Instead of emphasizing the lead singer and melody, the Feelies focus on guitar playing and rhythm. This simple technique lets the band members explore the outer limits of their electric and acoustic guitars, sometimes with the airy clarity of a harp, at other times with the churning groove of a locomotive on an uphill track. As the guitars taunt and complement each other, singers occasionally mumble remote, garbled lyrics. Their voices, like musical instruments, change the mood without a wordy message.

Crazy Rhythms exudes less spunk and variety than the band's subsequent The Good Earth and Only Life. Two cover tunes—the Rolling Stones's "Paint It Black" and the Beatles's "Everybody's Got Something to Hide (Except Me and My Monkey)"—are drab. Yet the album preserves plenty of the spark that ignited it 10 years ago. Even after all this time, the Feelies still sound innovative. (A&M)

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