Monday, May 28, 2012

Feeder - Generation Freakshow

Generation Freakshow
Big Teeth Music Ltd

On paper, Welsh/U.K. based alternative rock outfit Feeder’s short lived experiment to play under the name of Renegades to reignite their spark and passion for playing was a sound one. Without the expectation of playing as Feeder, the band were able to let loose and do whatever they wanted – at least when they played live. And for the most part, the plan worked. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a complete success, with the band’s last album ‘Renegades’ (2010) coming across as disappointing. Sure, it rocked harder than anything heard on the band’s two former releases (2005’s ‘Pushing The Senses’ and 2008’s ‘Silent Cry’), but the inconsistent song writing and their attempts to return the heavier guitar sound of their ‘Polythene’ (1997) days fell well short of expectations.
Not surprisingly, the lukewarm reaction to the album from fans and critics alike resulted in the band scrapping plans to release a second album in 2010. Instead, the band decided to rework leftover material and two years after the release of ‘Renegades’, Feeder (Vocalist, guitarist, keyboardist and song writer Grant Nicholas, bassist Taka Hirose and Ben’s Brother drummer Karl Brazil) is back with their eighth album ‘Generation Freakshow’.
The opening track ‘Oh My’, while hardly a huge departure of sound for the band, is a strong start for the album with its huge melodic choruses, thick layered guitar chords and its solid keyboard sound all combining to make for the classic Feeder sound. But as good as the opener is it’s the first single ‘Borders’ where Feeder really hit their stride. Everything that fans love about Feeder is in this track, with Nicholas’ lyrics, vocals and chorus structures all coming across as inspired. Quite simply, ‘Borders’ is the best single to emerge from Feeder in years, and definitely one of the album’s real highlights.
Although starting off a little awkwardly with its opening guitar riff, ‘Idaho’ turns out to be a strong rocking effort with some great guitar riffs (Although it has to be said, the lyrics on this track are some of Nicholas’ clumsiest in some time), while ‘Hey Johnny’ (Which is a tribute to former drummer Jon Lee) is a mid-paced rocker that is infectious and uplifting (Despite the song’s sad story), and a far more mature sounding track for the band.
The mellow ‘Quiet’ is the kind of song writing style that Nicholas has been perfecting over the years, and could have easily slotted onto 2002’s ‘Comfort In Sound’ with its lush instrumentation and hooks that stay with you long after the song has finished, while ‘Sunrise’ is a mix of the band’s guitar driven/big chorus sound from ‘Polythene’ mixed with a sophistication and maturity that was all but absent on their last album.
The title track ‘Generation Freakshow’ and ‘Headstrong’ are ballsy rockers that come across as lingering leftovers from the band’s experimental phase as Renegades. But unlike a lot of tracks that emerged from that era (2009 to 2011), these tracks are actually strong efforts. To prove this point, ‘Tiny Minds’ is actually from those sessions, and although is notable for its brief guitar solo, ultimately comes across as one of the album’s weakest efforts.
The breezy, up-tempo and trumpet enhanced ‘In All Honesty’ is O.K., but another filler effort compared to the stronger efforts on the album, while ‘Fools Can’t Sleep’ is another effort that’s good, but far from Feeder’s best.
Towards the end of the album, ‘Children Of The Sun’ (Which is the second single from the album) stands out as a return to form deep into the album, even if it’s nothing we haven’t heard many times before from the band (The lighters in the air slower tempo melancholy rock anthem), leaving the short acoustic hidden track ‘Skylife’ to officially close the album.
Feeder has been really hit and miss since the release of ‘Comfort In Sound’, and in a lot of ways, ‘Generation Freakshow’ is no different. But while the album is a little front packed (Some shuffling of the track listing would have helped to spread the rockier efforts a bit more evenly) and features a couple of clunkers, Feeder seems to have emerged from the fog that has been surrounding them to deliver what is easily the best thing the band has produced in a decade.

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© Justin Donnelly