The first line of “Nobody Knows,” the opening track of The Feelies’ first album in 19 years, neatly sums up what must go through the minds of every member of every rock band contemplating a reunion album and tour: “Is it too late to do it again, or should we wait another 10?”
It’s been a long wait for Feelies fans, but Here Before is worth waiting for. After two decades of various side and solo projects, Glenn Mercer and Bill Million are back with longtime band members Brenda Sauter-Barnes on bass and vocals, Stanley Demeski on drums, and Dave Weckerman on percussion.
The band got back together in 2008 at the urging of Sonic Youth for a Battery Park gig, then played a series of gigs — many at their old stomping ground Maxwell’s in Hoboken, N.J. In 2010, they climbed down into Mercer’s basement studio to make this album.
As you’d expect from a more mature band, Here Before doesn’t pack the kind of full frontal assault as 1988’s Only Life or 1991’s Time for a Witness. “Nobody Knows” bounces along with jangly guitars and a loping bass at a comfortable mid-tempo groove that is sustained throughout most of the album.
And as you’d expect from middle-age indie rock stalwarts, a lot of the songs here are meditations on the passing of time, what’s lost, and what’s gained. “Too many thoughts collide” on “Again Today,” which also has some very tasty slide guitar work. The slightly more up-tempo “When You Know” opens with the phrase “Every time I see looking back … see the signs of life… Open the door one more time.”
“Later On” and “Time Is Right” and the title track also deal with the ticking of the big old existential clock. “Later On” also has some nice percussion and guitar picking — subtle textures that reflect a more contemplative mood. “Morning Comes” has a nice slow stalking beat to it, and “Bluer Skies” is a lovely down-tempo piece.
The music throughout echoes past songs and carries that Feelies sound firmly established from the outset of their career with Crazy Rhythms over three decades ago. But I wouldn’t want it any different. Listening to The Feelies is the aural equivalent of putting on a comfy, faded flannel shirt. Feels right.
I just hope they don’t wait another 19 years to release their next album. Five albums in 31 years is not a huge output for one of the greatest underground bands to come out of Hoboken.
The Feelies: www.thefeeliesweb.com