The Feelies, "Here Before" (Bar None) -- Like the return of Steely Dan, the Feelies reassembled as if no time had passed at all. "Here Before," however, is this acclaimed New Jersey quintet's first album in 20 years. Like the players' catalog throughout the '80s (in the Feelies and half a dozen offshoots), the music here pays little attention to current trends or contemporary sounds. They're aware of the passing of time -- the album opens with singer-guitarist Glenn Mercer singing, "Is it too late to do it again, or should we wait another 10?" -- and the only indication that they're older is a less-frenetic, easygoing amble in the trademark 12-string strumming and insistent, soft rhythms. It's instantly recognizable and amazingly fresh.
Feelies songs used to begin way in the distance, fading in over the course of two minutes; here, a jangly song like "Should Be Gone" starts up front and ends with a long walk into the distance -- the drums, bass and guitar actually playing softer and softer instead of an engineer turning down the knob. "Time Is Right" recalls the ferocity of the band's first record, the splash-making "Crazy Rhythms" (1980), with a bit more anxiety in the guitars of Mercer and fellow singer-guitarist Bill Million. But mostly "Here Before" is perfectly pleasant trip well worth the wait.
In other news, and what I'm still listening to ...
I've got Bob Geldof on the brain. I watched "Live Aid" again, I saw him give an inspiring keynote speech at SXSW, I recommend the hour about him currently showing up on the Biography channel, he was great on Craig Ferguson recently, and his new album, "How to Compose Popular Songs That Will Sell" (), his first album in a decade, is still in heavy rotation. Bluesy, graceless, often completely weird -- it haunts a cobwebbed space somewhere between Ray Davies and the new album from Robbie Robertson. Oddly, given his SXSW pleas for musicians to say something of value, this album has precious little to say, led by the shuffling single "Silly Pretty Thing." It's not silly, really, and you can't call this album pretty, but it's got an appealing grit and lurking presence that's not easy to shake.
Colin Hay's transition from New Wave hitmaker in Men at Work to traditional singer-songwriter has been most satisfying (and less gritty than Peter Case's). His latest album, "Gathering Mercury" () is sometimes jaunty and wry (gems include "Send Somebody" and "Where the Sky Is Blue"), but too often listless and laggard ("Invisible," alas, takes a while to finally disappear). Hay's recognizable tenor is still rewarding in 10 well-organized folk-pop songs. (In concert: Hay performs April 30 at Park West.)
I'll recommend Bob Collum's "The New Old Thing" (). Bobby Long's "A Winter Tale" has enjoyed some traction lately for the British singer-songwriter's uncanny Americana. Collum, meanwhile, is an Oklahoman relocated to London, and his loping between solid country-rock ("Crawford County") and string-band laments ("Not Quite You") must be showing Mayfair how to mosey.
Got kids? Chicago boasts several worthy children's entertainers, but for my money one of the best in the genre is Atlanta's Daddy A Go Go, a k a Beatles fan John Boydston, who makes guitar-bass-drums rock about cleaning your plate, surviving carpool and watching cartoons. ("For Those About to Walk, We Salute You," c'mon!) Parents might not even know it's kids' music, unless they really tune in. Sample his tunes on the new Daddy A Go Go compilation, "Grandkid Rock."
Fellow fans: Morrissey's got a new greatest hits set coming up ("reissue, repackage, repackage"), but along with it comes a reissue of his 1992 single "Glamorous Glue" in two editions, each with an unreleased B-side snatched from the 1988 "Viva Hate" sessions. The songs are "Safe, Warm Lancashire Home" and "Treat Me Like a Human Being," due April 18 (two days after Record Store Day, for some reason).