When I was writing music reviews for Spectrum Culture, I sometimes felt obligated to volunteer for the new releases from bands who had banged out tunes at club shows staged before some of my cohorts were born. There was no clanging indication that I was an uncommon elder, but I felt a certain protectiveness. My own longstanding skepticism of bands who’d arguably overstayed their welcome — or, worse yet, reunited after a significant layoff — made me want to make sure that the artists I’d once played new records from on college radio were getting a fair shake. That I had no indication whatsoever than anyone there shared my knee-jerk prejudice against high mileage groups was evidently an inconsequential data point to me.
And that’s how my own preconception about reunion efforts was knocked asunder by the Feelies. To be sure, the band’s 2011 album, Here Before, doesn’t really stand up against their finest achievements, but it made a strong enough case for dusting off the old guitar straps. Their famed jittery music stylings had aged and softened in agreeable ways, maintaining the restless creativity but settling into a mode that suggested a charmed and charming ease.
That wisdom-dappled mellowing continues with In Between, the latest effort from the Feelies. Arriving six years after Here Before, the album doesn’t have the same surprising thrill of resuscitation. It instead offers its own sort of template. This is how a college rock band can persist in dignity. It is gentle progression rather than anxious snatching at past glories. The only real echo on the album is the title cut, and only because it’s presented in two forms: a rustling breeze of a song when it opens the album and a grandly squalling hurricane when it returns for a nine-and-a-half-minute reprise at the end.
The material is recognizably the product of the Feelies throughout, but they spend just enough time digging into new little corners of their music. “When To Go” locks into a ruminative groove, and “Gone Gone Gone” is notable for its piercing sonic escalation. Maybe the most characteristic song is “Flag Days,” with its lolling, direct lyrics (“Somebody’s talking/ What are they saying?/ Why are they whispering?/ Nobody’s listening”) peppered with the most relaxed “Come on, baby” in rock ‘n’ roll history. And why shouldn’t the Feelies be relaxed? After all these years, it’s perfectly acceptable for their rhythms to be a little less crazy.