Wake Ooloo

  • Wake Ooloo
  • Hear No Evil (Pravda) 1994 
  • What About It (Pravda) 1995 
  • Stop the Ride (Pravda) 1996 

After the Feelies’ influential decade-plus of obsessively precise pop geometry, it’s understandable that Wake Ooloo, the post-Feelies quartet formed by singer/guitarist Glenn Mercer and percussionist-turned-drummer/vocalist Dave Weckerman, should be a bit less anal in its exposition. Joined by barely audible keyboardist Russell Gambino and bassist Troy Meiss, the New Jersey pair adjusts the medication on Hear No Evil, following a tangent from the trajectory (Dylan plus textured rock) of end-time Feelies. The songs are familiar in melody and structure, but Wake Ooloo’s dynamics and arrangements aren’t so tightly controlled; feedback and distortion are more random commodities, and stray notes are allowed to stick wherever they land. Hear No Evil is sometimes unfocused and sloppy, a victim of Mercer’s limitations as a rampant rocker. The ratio of songs that wander (“Time to Go,” “Effigy” and “Rise,” crudely built on the “You Really Got Me” chord riff) to songs that work (“Nobody Heard,” “Forty Days,” “Another Song”) is about even.

Mercer severed the Feelies umbilical connection with What About It, but it took some radical surgery. Rather than sprinting down narrow melodic corridors, the quartet (with new bassist John Dean in the lineup) demonstrates its ability to lose control in an unrestrained MC5-ish rock frenzy (“Don’t Look Now”) and unwind to a pretty four-chord stroll (“Anything”). Overall, the pop is poppier and the rock is rockier: “Monday Morning,” the finale, builds from an atmospheric nothing to a stunning crescendo. In a surprising show of democracy, the once-autocratic Mercer gives everyone a turn at the mic, stepping aside for four of the album’s dozen numbers. The uneven songwriting and singing — Mercer is the only reasonably competent vocalist in the bunch, the others don’t come close — precludes stylistic continuity, a situation Mercer exacerbates with “Down That Road,” a deeply uncharacteristic acoustic blues.

[Ira Robbins]

See also: Speed the Plough