The Feelies | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader
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Romantic minimalists in the extreme, the Feelies sweep a lot of people off their feet with their lush yet quick-stepping two-chord trances. In my book, people affected this way are usually airheads: give them any brightly colored balloon to hold on to and they float away. Me, I'm turned off by the Feelies' self-aggrandizing navel-gazing, by their banal turns of phrase delivered as poetic philosophy, by the easy pleasures they derive from a vague weltschmerz--in short, by the same things that turn me off to countless other hapless romantics. And I should say now that despite all this and more, the Feelies' third and latest album, Only Life, sounds pretty grand. The key is that their Velvet Underground-influenced minimalism offsets their lush, R.E.M.-influenced romanticism (a neat trick, being influenced by a younger band). Listening to this disc, you can almost see them onstage, leaning forward, elbows tucked in, brows furrowed in concentration, slashing out their pretty chords at breakneck speed with stiff wrists and white knuckles. But whereas here they alternate between melancholy meditations and foot-to-the-floor rave-ups, onstage every song--whether their own or the Velvet's or Patti Smith's or the Monkees'--gets the same treatment: starting off really slow, they speed up, get really fast, then slow down to a close that leaves you right where you started. The ride itself, however, enacts a kind of transformation: it turns pretentiousness into harmless corn, self-absorption into controlled artistry, and me into a free-floating airhead. Tonight, 7:30 PM, Cabaret Metro, 3730 N. Clark; 549-0203.

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