Courtesy of the artist
The Feelies' "Should Be Gone" is a wry and resonant meditation on surviving long enough to question history.
The Feelies' "Should Be Gone" is a wry and resonant meditation on surviving long enough to question history. Courtesy of the artist
Song: "Should Be Gone"
Artist: The Feelies
CD: Here Before
While the band never achieved the mainstream success of its contemporaries and aesthetic cousins in R.E.M., The Feelies' 1980s records Crazy Rhythms and Only Life take a backseat to no other; they're vital touchstones in the growth of American independent music. By the time the group reconvened in 2010 for a well-deserved victory lap on the 30th anniversary of Crazy Rhythms, its strong critical reputation had grown to pantheonic proportions. The safe play for the re-formed Feelies would have been to keep playing the oldies rather than tinker with an unimpeachable legacy. But with characteristic idiosyncrasy, the band, fresh off a 20-year hiatus, went the other way and released an entire album of new material.
Good thing it did. The resulting record, Here Before, not only holds its own alongside The Feelies' previous catalog, but also embroiders on it themes of nostalgia and loss that would have been emotionally inaccessible to the band in its younger iteration. Remarkably, none of The Feelies' knack for melodic immediacy with a melancholy tug was lost during the long hibernation. Set to an instantly hummable jangle, "Should Be Gone" is a wry and resonant meditation on surviving long enough to remember a glorious history, while wondering if it was all truly as glorious as it seemed: "Bring up the past / like yesterday / try to recall / what was so great?"
From a fan's perspective, the commonly felt ambivalence regarding reunions like these stems less from concern over the fear of tarnishing a legacy and more from what the audience might inadvertently learn about itself in the process. In the worst of these instances, there's something wrenching about seeing the sepia-toned memories of glorious youth replaced with images of age, infirmity and the toll of years. To witness it in one's heroes is to acknowledge it doubly in oneself. The Feelies' terrific reunion album skips lightly around this conundrum — it's powerful, honest music, rendered by deeply gifted performers who just happened to take a couple decades off.