Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Thinking Fellers Union Local 282
Sometimes the greatest of things go completely unnoticed.
In this case it's not a far cry to call Thinking Fellers Union Local 282 true visionaries. Their name reeks of pretension and self-importance -- thankfully, neither are applicable. This whimsical group made deceptively simple pop recordings during the late '80s and up until the new millennium, in the same vein as label-mates Guided By Voices and Pavement. While their recording style embraced the lo-fi aesthetic of their brethren at Matador Records, their songwriting style meandered a completely different path.
Thinking Fellers Union Local 282's records were, for most respects, just plain fucking weird. In their early years, most songwriting passages get interrupted by disunited and disorganized excerpts of noise. By the time they signed to Matador Records in the early '90s, TFUL '82 cleaned up their records, but retained their same whimsical sense of humor and execution. The result: a brilliant post-apocalyptic mess that somehow managed to garner a minor college rock hit, Strangers from the Universe.
In the past few months this record has ascended my depth chart of favorite albums. It's an amalgam of everything I love: idiosyncratic indie rock and really unusual (but otherwise groovy) pop melodies. It sounds like someone shoved Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain through a blender and ported the great steaming mess into a thirteen-track take. Although the band tries their best on this album to obliterate any chance of landing a top forty hit, they do fuck up occasionally and produce a truly memorable song, like this one here entitled "Cup of Dreams":
And while TFUL 282 never really received the critical attention they so deserved, this album is a summary exploration of their career's material. So much of this album is expressive of their wide grasp of musical innovation, and their love for it. Sadly, the Fellers have since amicably dissolved, but their existence leaves an indelible impression of what's so wonderful about music in the first place.