The Feelies are one of those beloved band's bands whose influence far exceeds their royalty statements, and, as a consequence, the period on the last sentence in their bio keeps turning into a comma.
Born of the suburban garages of North Haledon, N.J., they released Crazy Rhythms in 1980 to massive acclaim and minimal sales, then promptly split off into myriad minor side projects, only to resurface again in 1986 with the altogether wonderful The Good Earth. It was coproduced by Peter Buck, guitarist for R.E.M., whose early sound is deeply indebted to the inviting ambiguities and pretty persuasions of the Feelies' aesthetic.
Two major-label releases followed - 1988's Only Life and 1991's Time for a Witness - and that was pretty much all she wrote. Except a funny thing happened on the way to the cut-out bin, as the Feelies pretty much wrote the template for much of the indie rock to come: a dense web of jangling guitars and zooming raga-like drones, percussion-heavy rhthyms played at double-latte tempos, incantatory lead vocals mixed as understatement of the year.
Fast forward to 2008, when the reactivated Feelies again turned the period at the end of their bio into a comma. Friday night at Johnny Brenda's, the band was living proof that not much has really changed all these years later.
The musicians still dress like grad-studies professors, with dual frontmen-guitarists Bill Million and Glenn Mercer rocking matching pleated khakis. They still love turning good classic-rock covers sideways ("She Said, She Said" and "Paint It Black"). Crazy-tempoed rave-ups like "Slipping (Into Something)" have lost none of their amphetamine pep. And the Feelies' brand of indie-rock raga is still capable of making a sold-out club audience wiggle wildly, like worms on hooks, despite the preponderance of graybeards and glistening pates in the crowd.
With a set list that drew liberally from their glorious middle period, the Feelies re-created once-upon-a-time college-radio staples such as "The High Road" and "Deep Fascination" with impeccable precision, warmth, and clarity, not to mention that sense of mystery at the center of their music that always suggested they knew much more than they let on.