Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Feeder - Renegades

Big Teeth Music Limited/Shock Entertainment

For many years, London based three-piece rock outfit Feeder couldn’t seem to put a foot wrong with the charts consistently filled with group’s hit singles, and each of the band’s first four album releases (1997’s ‘Polythene’, 1999’s ‘Yesterday Went Too Soon’, 2001’s ‘Echo Park’ and 2002’s ‘Comfort In Sound’) helping to establish Feeder as one of the U.K.’s biggest hard rock acts. But despite the ever growing success in the early years, it was clear that Feeder (Who since 2002, have comprised of vocalist/guitarist Grant Nicholas, bassist Taka Hirose and drummer Mark Richardson) weren’t interested in making the same album over and over again, with 2005’s ‘Pushing The Senses’ and 2008’s ‘Silent Cry’ showcasing a far more mature and mainstream sound. Needless to say, both albums weren’t all that well received by either fans or critics and as a consequence, all but finished the band’s long running stint in the spotlight and the charts.
Compounding the band’s flagging album sales was the dissolution of The Echo Label (The label decided to no longer release albums, and instead would exist purely as a copyright exploitation company), and the departure of Richardson to take part in the reunion of his former band Skunk Anansie.
Without a label and a drummer, Nicholas and Hirose took the opportunity to try something new, and alongside with newcomer Karl Brazil (Drummer for British band Ben’s Brother), undertook two short U.K. tours under the pseudonym of Renegades in support of two independently released E.P.’s earlier in the year (‘Renegades’ and ‘Renegades 2’, both of which were released through their own label Big Teeth Music Limited). Both the tours and the E.P’s released under the Renegades alias were primarily geared towards the band’s attempt to reconnect with their roots, and shake off the expectations of existing under the name of Feeder. The idea is certainly a novel one, and while the effect hasn’t been quite what the band had hoped for, their seventh full-length effort ‘Renegades’ – the first of two album’s Feeder plan to release this year – is certainly a vast improvement on the band’s last two efforts.
Although remaining true to the slower pace that has become a familiar trait of Feeder’s more recent works, the opening track ‘White Lines’ is at least a return to their heavier sound, with Nicholas once again revelling in huge guitar grooves and feedback alongside Hirose’s rumbling and thick bass sounds. It’s not the perfect opening track for the album, but things do pick up with the up-tempo and lively first single ‘Call Out’, which is undoubtedly one of the strongest and more classic old Feeder sounding songs to emerge in some time.
The title track ‘Renegades’ and the short and fast ‘Barking Dogs’ are rocking efforts that reveal a slight punk edge in amongst the band’s trademark guitar driven sound, while ‘Sentimental’ is easily the heaviest thing they have released in years, even if the catchy choruses are somewhat downbeat and secondary to the thick guitar tones.
Although starting off strong, ‘This Town’ and the awkward ‘Left Foot Right’ come off as ideas that really fail to hit their intended target, and are by far the album’s weakest efforts. Surprisingly enough, the ballad like ‘Down To The River’ is an absolute stunning effort, even if it sounds more in line with the direction the band took with ‘Silent Cry’ a couple of years ago.
The driven ‘Home’ recalls the bands ‘Polythene’ era in both sound and feel, followed closely by the pop/punk like ‘City In A Rut’, while the appropriately coined closing number ‘The End’ brings the album to climatic close.
In terms of livening up things, the band’s step back towards a more guitar driven sound as Renegades has certainly worked. Gone is the rather slow and plodding feel of the last two albums, and welcomed back is the energy and vibrancy of the band’s earlier material. But despite their step forward, it would seem that on the lyrical front, Nicholas has taken a few steps back, with some of his lyrical efforts on ‘Renegades’ well below the standards previously set.
Overall, while ‘Renegades’ is far from what you could honestly say is a Feeder classic (‘Comfort In Sound’ in my mind is the last Feeder effort to attain that high achievement), it’s at the very least a fun listen, and an escape from the generally dull direction heard on the band’s last two releases.

For more information on Feeder, check out - http://www.myspace.com/feederweb

© Justin Donnelly