sun 18/11/2018

Reissue CDs Weekly: Yung Wu | reviews, news & interviews

Reissue CDs Weekly: Yung Wu

Reissue CDs Weekly: Yung Wu

Feelies offshoot’s sole album is as good as those by its parent band

Yung Wu aka The Feelies in 1987, with Dave Weckerman (centre, in sunglasses)J Baumgartner

When Crazy Rhythms, the ever-fabulous first album by New Jersey’s Feelies was issued in April 1980 it seemed to have little local context. Although the band’s fidgetiness suggested a kinship with Talking Heads and there were a clear nods to The Velvet Underground, it felt more of a piece with contemporary British post-punk bands Josef K and The Monochrome Set than anything American. Fittingly, Eno's first two solo offerings also  fed into the album.

And after this landmark album? Nothing until the release of its belated and welcome follow-up The Good Earth in 1986. The line-up had changed but key members Glenn Mercer and Bill Million were still on board. Then, in 1987, an album called Shore Leave by Yung Wu was issued. Though apparently a different band, five of its six members were from the Good Earth configuration of The Feelies – that is, the entire Feelies line-up was also in Yung Wu, who were rounded-out by a keyboard player.

Yung Wu Shore LeaveIn all but name, the newly reissued Shore Leave was seemingly a third Feelies album. Beyond the addition of keyboards, the other difference from the parent outfit was that Feelies’ percussionist Dave Weckerman was the band’s vocalist/leader rather than Mercer and Million.

It had been known that Feelies offshoot bands were in operation. The Trypes and The Willies were two of them. Yung Wu was another and, as Weckerman explains in his short note accompanying the first-ever reissue of Shore Leave, Yung Wu were a splinter group from The Trypes. But whatever the family tree and designation, this was less-than one step removed from The Feelies and could be seen as a proxy follow-up to The Good Earth.

Shore Leave, says Weckerman, was recorded in April 1987 when he had only eight songs for band. As the repertoire wasn’t enough for an album, three cover versions were taped at the sessions: The Rolling Stones’ psychedelic odyssey “Child of the Moon”, Neil Young’s “Powderfinger” and “Big Day”, which Eno had originally sung on the Phil Manzanera album Diamond Head. While these acknowledge influences in the air at the time, they do not delineate the overarching sound of Shore Leave.

Yung Wu Dave WeckermanThe album beings with the rolling title track and builds from there. Insistently strummed guitars, loping rhythms, forward motion and circular melodies define proceedings. If a folk-inclined Eno had been a member of the Chronic Town-era R.E.M., it might have sounded like this. “The Empty Pool”, “Aspiration” and “Spinning”, tracks two to four of Side One, meld into each other to create a tense atmosphere alleviated by the side’s closer, a folk-rock reconfiguration of “Big Day”.

After beginning with the “Tomorrow Never Knows”-like “Eternal Ice”, Side Two has the same trajectory even though the Stones and Young cover versions are sequenced as tracks four and five of six. Heard now, Shore Leave prefigures The Feelies of today more than it links back to The Good Earth. Yet it also has its own characteristics: Weckerman (pictured above left) is a harder-edged vocalist then either Mercer or Million, the rhythmic flow is rockier that any post-Crazy Rhythms Feelies album and the instrumental interplay evinces a fondness for psychedelic drones.

Superb as Shore Leave was, it was an interregnum. Following its release, The Feelies proper signed with A&M and issued the assured Only Life, the stronger and first of two albums they made for label before splitting in 1992. They reformed in 2008 and are still active.

With a bonus flexi-disc repress of Weckerman’s 1980 single of a prototype version of “Shore Leave” and “Out Of Baby's Reach” accompanying the new vinyl edition, this reissue of Shore Leave is a welcome reminder that one of America’s more idiosyncratic bands is not just about the records recorded as The Feelies.

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