Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Crazy Rhythms

Excellent appraisal of the Feelies album Crazy Rhythms at Zone Styx Travelcard. When this was reissued a little while ago, the expected chorus of glowing reviews appeared: such as these. Not that there's anything grossly objectionable in those reviews (actually the Pitchfork review is pretty good), but I think ZST benefits from being relatively new to the album--or so I assume based on the opening sentence--and not approaching it as a seminal artifact of American indie rock. I also liked his concluding remark about "jangle," which is one of those widely used rock critic terms I've never really understood in practice. It was, I believe, coined to describe the Byrds but I don't even hear it in their music. ZST, in typical Brit fashion, assigns it to the music that every decent British music critic hates, "indie." As an American, "indie" has different meanings (indeed, the Feelies and Pixies might both be considered "indie" by some people here), and I can't really think of any music that sounds like a jingle bell or bells or someone shaking their keys, etc., that isn't avant-garde. The Wikipedia article on "jangle pop" devolves into the kind of minute hair-splitting that makes me more sympathetic to the musical taxonomy haters I've dissed in earlier posts.

Speaking of the Pixies, I have to disagree with this analogy: "Listened to in conjunction with the massively underwhelming follow-up The Good Earth, you realize The Feelies pulled off the same uncommon trick as Pixies, making a first album which is better recorded, more intelligent, more developed, just better all round, than its successor, even down to the crisp, dry, force of the production, almost clinically clear and undistorted, where the second is mushier, messier, duller, more conventional." The Good Earth is disappointing from what I remember of the only time I listened to it, but I always preferred Doolittle to Surfer Rosa, which meanders a little until "Gigantic" (admittedly, that song might be their finest moment), whereas Doolittle holds my attention from "Debaser" onward.

On the other hand, I suspect I might be under the influence of a common musical syndrome that lacks a name as far as I know. Call it the law of album primogeniture: that phenomenon where the first album you heard by a particular band or artist, regardless of the album's chronological position in their oeuvre, is and always will be their "best." Rooted in the unpredictable neurochemical chaos of adolescence, it's an odd phenomenon that is nowhere near universal--for me, there are far more bands where it hasn't happened that way--but is strangely resilient.

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