It’s kind of amazing that Feeder are still going, still plucking away despite all the knocks that life has thrown at them. They’ve suffered tragic personal loss and years of sneering indifference from music critics, but have accumulated a fair number of Top 20 hits along the way and are showing no signs of giving up, despite being down to just two permanent members these days. So it’s heartening to report that their new album Generation Freakshow is actually one of their best.
It seems a very long time since I picked up a copy of Stereo World in my local music shop, largely because it IS a very long time, around 16 years. A lot has happened to both of us since then, but I still feel loyal towards one of the first ‘new bands’ I got into as a teenager, remembering the ripple of anticipation in the crowd when they supported Reef at the Manchester Academy in 1997. They were a band to watch back then, even if it was just amongst the Kerrang! readership. The success of Buck Rogers and their post-tragedy relaunch with Comfort In Sound saw them briefly hit the big time, but they’ve faded away since then.
Pushing The Senses repeated the tricks of Comfort In Sound pretty well, but their moment was passing long before Silent Cry was met with a critical and commercial shrug. Losing drummer Mark Richardson to Skunk Anansie‘s reformation only added to the feeling that Feeder might have to call it a day. Instead, they regrouped (well, both of them) and toured as ‘Renegades‘, playing a more rock-focused set in a bid to win back old fans who might have drifted away during their ‘Coldplay days’, before releasing a Feeder album with that title. It was pretty good, not great, but the NME still told them to give up.
And so we come to Generation Freakshow, still with just Grant Nicholas and Taka Hirose as full-time band members. After emotional indie followed by old school indie rock, what direction would they go in this time. Happily, rather than one or the other, Feeder have combined their strengths in a way that they haven’t done as well since Yesterday Went Too Soon, the album that this most resembles. There’s ballads, there’s rockers and there’s the middle ground stuff they do so well, and it works because it’s a mixture of the three.
First single Borders has been around for a while, but that doesn’t make its impact any less remarkable, as it’s the best Feeder song in a long, long time, and perfectly sums up the strengths of this album. It’s catchy, the guitars are buzzing with energy and it would have been a hit ten years ago, before the singles market collapsed. Fans wooed back by the Renegades sound will love it too, and there’s plenty of other rockers on here, like Idaho and the fizzy Headstrong, which is pretty much this album’s Hole In My Head, if perhaps slightly slow (they’re not as young as they used to be, you know).
Given that recording sessions for Generation Freakshow began in 2009 when they were making Renegades, and the release date has been moved back numerous times (and almost two years), you might worry that the resulting album would be a bit of a mishmash, but instead it’s a cohesive piece of work, in spite of embracing both sides of their musical characters. From the keyboard-led opener Oh My to the melodic closer Children Of The Sun, it’s Feeder doing what they do best, without feeling like they need to sound a certain way to impress a certain section of fans, and it’s all the better for it. At this rate, they’ll be around a lot longer yet…