The Feelies

Here Before

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"Is it too late/To do it again?/Or should we wait/Another ten?" The Feelies have never been a band given to autobiographical self-reflection in their music, but the opening song on Here Before finds them seemingly pondering the wisdom of their own decision to re-form and return to the recording studio a full 20 years after their last album, 1991's Time for a Witness. But the Feelies needn't have worried -- one play confirms Here Before is excellent, an album that finds the band seemingly picking up where it left off and sounding as committed and invigorating as ever, reveling in the beauty and power of rhythm guitars and cracking percussion. Here Before features the complete Feelies Mk. 2 lineup that recorded The Good Earth, Only Life, and Time for a Witness -- guitarists Glenn Mercer and Bill Million, bassist Brenda Sauter, drummer Stanley Demeski, and percussionist Dave Weckerman -- and stylistically, it hits a middle ground between the gentler, more pastoral tone of The Good Earth and the more potent, electric feel of the two albums that followed. This may not be the hardest-rocking set the Feelies have ever released, but the balance of the electric and acoustic guitars on "Again Today," "Nobody Knows," and "Change Your Mind" shows there's plenty of force even in their more subdued moments, and "When You Know" and "Time Is Right" demonstrate this band is just as tight and commanding as it was in its heyday, and when the Feelies choose to turn up the amps, they haven't lost a bit of their taut impact. And as a set of songs, Here Before is their strongest work since The Good Earth in 1986; the lyrics don't explicitly address the two decades that separates this work from their last album, but there's an easy acceptance of maturity here that fits the band well, without diluting the forward momentum of the music. Now as before, there are few groups in rock & roll that perform as brilliantly and purposefully as an ensemble as the Feelies, and on Here Before their trademark sound remains a thing of wonder that hasn't been dimmed a bit by the passage of time.

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