THE FEELIES Crazy Rhythms (Domino)

On their 1980 debut this New Jersey quartet played nascent college rock somewhere between the jittery nervousness of Talking Heads and the mumbled obfuscation of early R.E.M. , with maybe a dash of Orange Juice's art school foppishness and Wire's coded abruptness. These crazy rhythms are clattered out on all manner of exotic percussion, the sleeve notes crediting sandpaper, claves, temple block, shaker, castanets, maracas, can, coat rack, woodblock, timbale, tambourine, pipes, bells, shoes and reverbed sticks.

"Original Love" is one of the album's better moments, the way it's oddly prescient of future labelmates Franz Ferdinand's "Take Me Out" seems emblematic of the album's pervasive influence. And of all the Beatles songs to cover, "Everybody's Got Something To Hide (Except Me And My Monkey)" seems the best fit for their frantic sonic helter skelter.

Pleasant and propulsive as this album is, however, I can't help feeling that it's a bit sparse and skeletal as far as actual content is concerned. Great effort has clearly been expended on textures and arrangements, demonstrated by the stretches of Enoesque drones that punctuate many of these tracks and the glorious tangled mesh of Mike Oldfield/Robert Fripp-style guitars that open "Loveless Love", but rather less on writing songs that say something worth hearing.

"First time on 180 gram vinyl", trumpets the cover sticker heartwarmingly, and Domino's pressing is generally fine, although above-average levels of surface noise conspire against music that frequently builds slowly from silence. Extra points, nevertheless, for the voucher that entitles the purchaser to a CD-quality download of the album and five bonus tracks.