The arrival of a new album by Haledon, NJ’s favorite sons (and daughter) is always a cause for celebration – particularly when it can be punctuated by anywhere from three to twenty years in between! What a treat, then, that “In Between”, the Feelies’ 6th album (and first since 2011’s comeback, “Here Before”) is such a lovely document of what the band does well. The newer, softer Feelies that have evolved out of their 20-year absence make increased use of acoustic instrumentation here – oftentimes, it’s the percussion of Dave Weckerman that is loudest in the mix, and the songs have a late-Velvets ease to them that bely the tension rippling right beneath the surface. Autumnal in the best sense of the word, the album opens with the crackle of a campfire and the chirping of fauna and the title track sets the pace for most of the album – Glenn Mercer’s and Bill Million’s guitar strums nestling against one another, while Stan Demeski’s brushed drums and Brenda Sauter’s supple bass sagely keep time. The band is in no hurry and the album is all the better for it.
Those only familiar with the band via its classic debut will certainly be surprised by how languid the band is here – most songs shuffle breezily by and the first appearance of Mercer’s biting lead guitar doesn’t rear its head until the fourth track, album highlight “Flag Days”. All of this, however, is simply preamble to the 9-minute monolith that is the reprise of “In Between” that closes out the album. A fully electric take on the title track, the song continues to build steam until hitting the three-minute mark, and then it goes off the damn rails. Million’s churning rhythm guitar locks in with the rhythm section and Mercer’s skittering leads careen around it all; the sound they make is simultaneously hypnotizing and paranoia-inducing but never less than thrilling. When both guitars nimbly (and loudly) solo over the last minutes of the jam, it reminds you of why this band is so fervently adored almost 40 years after their debut. The culminating pick slide and feedback is all the reminder you need that age is nothing but a number and that the world is a better place with the Feelies rocking in it.