Essential New Music: The Trypes’ “Music For Neighbors”

Given a cursory look, the Trypes might’ve seemed like a just another hobby band. First formed in 1982, they were a combo of neighborhood pals from suburban Haledon (pronounced HALE-don), N.J., who were happy to while away afternoons playing their own songs and the odd Beatles cover. But they weren’t average, not at all. How many people, then or ever, have thought that psychedelic-era George was the Beatle to copy? And how many bands could call on their friend Glenn—who had played CBGB in his own band, the Feelies—to play drums? 

At the time, the Feelies were laying pretty low. Burned out by intraband tension and unpleasant record-label attention, they did roughly a gig per year in the early ‘80s. The remaining members were more likely to show up at some Jersey tavern incognito, performing songs that weren’t on Crazy Rhythms, or play in said taverns or basement studios with their pals in the Trypes, who recorded a four-song EP (1984’s The Explorer’ Hold) and another song for a Coyote Records compilation (1986’s Luxury Condos Coming To Your Neighborhood Soon). Not long after, the Feelies hit the road, taking some Trypes with them, while the homebodies in the band formed another group called Speed The Plough. 

Music For Neighbors celebrates the 40th anniversary of the Trypes’ founding. An earlier edition was released by Acute Records in 2012, and if you’re a vinyl partisan, the promised Pravda LP (due out this summer) doesn’t differ much from its predecessor, and their downloadable content overlaps. If you’re a CD partisan, this Pravda version has a half-dozen of the current download trove’s songs that aren’t on the LP.

All of the physical editions lead with the mid-‘80s recordings, which contain Feelies-like pastoral-pop songs (including one sung by Glenn Mercer) and Eno-tinged instrumentals that foreground layered keyboards and woodwinds. They’re followed by skeletal but immaculately arranged home recordings that feature an earlier singer, Elbrus Kelemet. If the Coyote-era Trypes conjures sublime reveries, Kelemet’s anxious warble and telegraphic lyrics sound like musical settings for the diary of that neurotic neighbor who still lives in his folks’ basement. The CD/download extras include murky live tracks, demos and a couple tunes from a 2017 reunion.

—Bill Meyer