FEELS never really “burst” on to the scene, although their eponymous debut record definitely would have you think it.
The post-punk proto-metal mashup did quite the job of summoning some sonic squalls; but it never had the production to take it from demo-tape sensibilities to stellar debut. Nor did it have the depth to have anyone believe this was some sort of post-punk stadium sellout act. What it did do however, was show the listeners what kind of beach FEELS would be hanging from. And with Post-Earth are looking for waves on which to start exposing refined tricks.
Shannon Lay’s fingerpicking-good melodies are incredible across the record, “Awful Need,” “Post Earth” and “Tollbooth,” all hole-in-the-wall testaments to dredge-full rock; but “Find a Way” remains the gamechanger—a surf rock cut with some rancor; reminiscent of La Luz if Shana Cleveland and the gang finished every instrumental refrain by throwing back their heads and coming up with fangs out for the vocal chorus. A wholly unsurprising turn of affairs when you realize Ty Segall rules LA as an underground lizard king. Not being the biggest Segallcore nerd out there, it’s surprising how many of his related artists still tick my boxes between mild curiosity and vested interest. That FEELS recall La Luz is certainly not the worst thing—there are worse bands out there to harmonize with—it’s just sort of the nature of a crowded music scene; artists will end up standing back-to-back, taking a similar vibe into opposite directions. In much the same way that La Luz play neo-surf rock psychedelia, FEELS play post-surf punk psychedelia. The problems come when bands repeat themselves insufferable singer-songwriter nausea, delving so far into their personal world that they lack the wont to expand. Hell, if I ever write a memoir book, it’ll be a once-per-every-twenty years type of deal. But to digress, they blew that shit all out of their system with Feels and so decided the best way to rile up the acid ducts on Post Earth was to just start spitting. Téléphone would be proud.
This doesn’t save them entirely from the headscratching moments, though; on “Tollbooth,” the band does their best to mock-up early-Nineties Pixies, but play too hard with the extremes. Even Francis Black wasn’t mad enough to destroy eardrums for only fifteen seconds out of a two minute track—the twiddling melody was easily enough. They do a much better job putting that rancid explosion of veritable spleen into “Deconstructed,” which just goes the full Trompe le Monde, hollering, moshing and jumping straight into the cathartic “Find a Way.” Oppositely, “W.F.L.” hangs-ten right off the wave, but in anti-climatic air; the cut never assimilates well into the long-winded introlude of “Sour.”
Amy Allen, feeling left out, finally chimes in and refocuses the cut with a fingerlicking good bassline, leading the outfit in righteous cacophonies of wrath and ruin; the track runs tense, a cable wire that, once it cuts back, won’t cut clean. On the cusp of a fight, it flees street-by-street, flying abreast to “Find a Way” as prime examples of how to inject melody into grimey aural environs: with urgency. Together they form a perfect soundtrack for an LA remake of The Warriors (Hollywood, forget I said this). The thing is however, FEELS are so maddeningly coy on “Sour” that one worries there will be no loose wires—that this gang of Rexy’s won’t break out the cage and rampage all the way up LA. Just in time the combined fury of Lay and Geronimo hurricanes and FEELS come to frenzy.
They are kept in pace by Michael Perry Rudes, who runs under this record with phenomenally tight drumming top-to-bottom. None better than on “Last Chance” and “Post Earth,” where Rudes flexes with little drummer boy tom-toms before storming into some serious dogs of war drum fills; Rudes’ constant presence in the mix comes down to Tim Green’s solid production ideas. FEELS refrains from the truly experimental, stealing heavily from the Sonic Youth-school of primeval grunge records for measured forays into feedback and reverb. Along the long-player it mostly works out fine, but can get them into trouble. “Anyways,” one of the weaker tracks on the record, plods with a sort of half-hearted menace, attempting to mimic the “Deconstructed” vibe but with vastly more well-developed parts. The result is something that shoots itself in the foot to replicate walking on glass. Its just not the same and a gross misuse of some solid ideas. But while FEELS and Green can misfire, they no longer rely on a simple post-punk storm of sound, adding a quiet-loud post-rock formula all while normalizing the wavelengths and cutting themselves off before indulging too hard. Smart, efficient post-rock; what a delightful oxymoron.
Trading off the record is its pacing, it mashes together all these great moments in the middle into one collective musical mélange before breaking on slower tempo cuts. The density between the choral “Find a Way” and the swaying “Flowers” means that pairs “Sour” and “Last Chance,” “Post Earth” and “Tollbooth” find themselves congealed together. Taken apart, listeners can enjoy how Green and the group made each cut different, but when put together where one begins and one ends becomes a difficult task to tell. That heavy Segallcore malaise grows in might as the long-player progresses and the differences in emotion become more subtle to the point of wondering if they even genuinely exist. It becomes both a stylistic consistent and a bathetic curse that renders record emotionally unavailable at times, whether in an unspoken rage or a disassociative droll worthy of Deerhunter’s latest output.
“All smiles D.J.T
War dogs on the street
The land of the free
One nation under fraud”
And while their lyrical grievances can devolve to tautologies and platitudes of equivalent systemic fuckery and bullshit gamesmanship, it all feels like a part of the point of these punk aesthetes: they need a “them” for “us” to rail against. Thankfully, the tautologies are taut, lasting no more than a few bars as opposed to several beers your <insert crazy relative here> downs just before telling you exactly “what is so fucked up about our political age.” Once again, FEELS know how to involve themselves without overindulging.
Because the things that make this record worth it makes this record even more worth it. The phenomenal instrumentation and musicianship plays into a Bangsian motto of “the grimier, the rockier, the better” and they make that idiomatic approach tick on the every part of their sophomore effort while still allowing for more long-form melodic, harmonic and rhythmic skill. The balls-to-walls gangbang power-chord noise riot that was their debut could not afford them this luxury of showcasing how Geronimo and Lay can interwine their guitars and their voices in a melodic duet, how Allen can bungie jump in or tightrope across cuts with her basslines and how Rudes can underpin it all with his tom-toms and right foot. When FEELS cook, they fucking hibachi.
Indicatively, FEELS made a jump, and despite my crocheting back-and-forth rapport with the record (I had to listen to this damnable, affectionable thing over twenty times before really solidifying my thoughts), it’s a reminder of why fans of New Wave exist: they want music that is errant, even flippant, of being good. Such a qualifier is ancillary to the idea of making rock moves. It doesn’t matter if the instruments are strung together with fishing line and ducktape, it doesn’t matter if the production is more studio-polished, it doesn’t matter if the mood is existential dread all day, it doesn’t matter if the lyrics are truant and curt. Deal with the moralization later, commit to the now right now. If it feels good, than FEELS are good, and believe it, Post Earth feels good.
Album Artist: FEELS
Producer: Tim Green
Genre: Post-Punk, Surf Punk
Release: February 22nd, 2019
“Find a Way”