Sunday, 6 May 2012

Feeder - Generation Freakshow


You can't blame a band like Feeder for sticking to their guns, be it guns with enough razor-edged and often obtrusive firepower, it's at times off-putting. Even here, as the noughties have more than come to an end - and then swiftly been replaced by a new decade that's brought a change in musical definition where the conventional geography of 'rock music' isn't as narrow and traditionally positioned as it once was - Feeder have unfortunately become the extinct dodo in yesteryear's jungle of british rock. After a string of commercially-accepted audience-appreciated albums in the shape of Echo Park & Comfort In Sound, the band sure have gone through the mill of the rough and tough experiences: drummers departing left, right and centre (one sadly, deciding to end more than his percussion playing), albums not meeting expectation and overall, fans and critics alike building this somewhat-expected belief that this is now a band who were far from relevant in the 2010's. In the second year of the new-10's decade, Feeder release their eighth studio album 'Generation Freakshow' which, on paper, shows no signs of differentiating people's opinions over what has in literal terms here, become a two-man band (permanent members Grant Nicholas & Taka Hirose) with what must now feel like session and live drummers to fill in the resulting gap.

Quite surprising then that opener 'Oh My' despite Nicholas still deciding to stick to his regular clear-cut deliverance of lyrics, is actually one that creates an interesting background to its clogging of fuzzing electric guitars and slapped-on drum hits. It's the in-between parts where the music is given space to breathe that actually feels invigorating upon listening. Likewise, 'Borders' uses vocals and harmony - which in places, is organic, and in others appears to transcend its natured origin - in an interesting composite manner that it actually makes up for the somewhat safe progression of chord changes and signature timing. But even as the track nears its end, there's some definite promise to the way the guitars switch between individual presence and their overall build. It doesn't necessarily succeed in producing anything new or spectacular, but no doubt is there a hint of what could be.

Even as I listen to 'Idaho's somewhat childishly simplistic transgression of lyrics - "Yeah, are you feeling it too/Yeah, I hope you're feeling it to" there's something quite charming and enjoyable about the way the song builds itself up. It's something I haven't experienced since songs like Buck Rogers first entered my ears, and it's something I definitely prefer over something that, a vast portion of their discography is littered with, just charges at you with very little meaning or purpose other than simply filling up the three-minute slot on the record. More to that, 'Idaho' gives me the impression Nicholas is actually enjoying singing this, somewhat vague somewhat novice yes, story-telling in his lyricism. 'Quiet' reiterates this with remarkable skill and execution - here, delicate guitar strings laying beneath a blanket of keys and orchestral accompaniment (again, a sound I haven't experienced and thus enjoyed since the likes of 'Forget About Tomorrow' was first presented). The band here, in whatever shape or form they are now, actually feel content with this sound and it's a field that actually fits them rather well.

'Generation Freakshow', the title track, though returning to Feeder's more peculiarly energized formula, manages to pull off a well-sought balance of forward-thinking music with attention-grabbing vocals. It's a musical testament to how well Nicholas' vocals coincide so well with the driving guitars and the way they alter back and forth throughout the composition. Here, the song doesn't falter or even fall victim to this get it over and done with atmosphere that a vast portion of their catalogue has become accustomed to recently. 'In All Honesty' in contrast, is probably the quickest of this album's 12-tracks not so much in its pacing, but as mentioned, it's its slightly impending eagerness to get things over with that feels slightly off-putting which is a shame considering the choice of sounds and distinctiveness in their guitar-playing isn't that bad. But beyond this, while this isn't as memorable and as note-worthy as the band's other attempts, it still demonstrates a means to try other structures and ways to progress their audibly bold sound.

'Fools Can't Sleep' surprisingly sees the band attempt something more grittier and earth-tredden in their guitar playing. And while Nicholas here unfortunately favors this signature elevated loftiness in his voice - and as a result, makes the track feel a little bloated and inflated - the music itself actually isn't all that bad. It's the old-western ting to the mellower guitar parts that brings light on a somewhat charismatic angle that doesn't necessarily appear that much on Feeder's sound. The album closer 'Children Of The Sun' will no doubt be one of those more memorable listens based on the vibe it creates rather than the sound. It's not so much its more gracious looking-forward lyrics Nicholas delivers that create this - 'We are guided by a safer hand/Something tells us not to look back down' - but rather its clever layering of delayed churning of organs and the haze of warmth the guitar and drums create as a result.

I won't exactly go as far as to say that 'Generation Freakshow' falls under the title of 'comeback record', primarily because I don't think there was that much demand or need for one. Furthermore, this isn't an album that's guaranteed to be agreed upon as totally re-inventive or reassuring. But at the same time, neither is this a record that falls completely flat and is totally diluted with unoriginality, hence why I still think it's an album that could easily be analyzed for its resurgence of an energy that isn't all direct and straight to proceedings, as much as it's analyzed for whatever degree of rehashing or repetitiveness you decide upon. I'd like to think Feeder will build on this revitalized manner, but even my confidence - and so too my focus - is lesser here than it is on other acts. But it's positive that, at the very least, even after their eighth LP, Feeder aren't ready to hang up their instruments and pack in altogether. Or worse, disappear altogether into the uncreative abyss.
~Jordan

6.9

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