While the title ‘Generation Freakshow‘ conjures up images of, well, chaos, the latest Feeder album is less a snapshot of the generational zeitgeist than a whistle-stop tour of the band’s back catalogue.
There’s little to differentiate this, their eighth studio album, from the output the Feeder boys have been producing since their formation over 20 years ago, which is to say the songs here showcase good ol’ fashioned rock, with a generous emphasis on the trio’s pop sensibilities.
The album opens with ‘Oh My‘, a swishing pop-rock number you can see becoming a summer hit on radio playlists, with its 90s licks and catchy chorus, while ‘Borders‘ is equally refreshing, riding a backwash of feel-good guitars and “blinded by the sun” sentiments. The “Woo-ooh-ooh” backing vocals are also so damn syrupy and sweet, you can’t help but want to dance, which is a quality Feeder have never quite lost, despite the band losing some steam (and fans) during the ‘Silent Cry‘ era.
‘Idaho‘ rounds off the first quarter of the album in the same spirited tone, a Jimmy Eat World-esque number about returning home. Even if the lyrics hardly pierce the heart (“There’s someone I left behind/She found a place in my mind that’s steady”), and despite this kind of tune being done to death by countless rock outfits over the years, when Grant Nicholas asks, “Are you feeling it too?” it’s akin to a rallying cry.
The highlight of the album is ‘Hey Johnny‘, which must be seen as a cathartic tribute to former drummer Jon Lee. “Why was he the first to go?” Nicholas sings, “Someone should have let us know.” It’s a fitting tribute, a semi-soft, eloquent yet uplifting rock song, with another summery chorus “Oh-oh-oh!” despite the grim subject matter.
Of course, not every song is a rollicking flip through the band’s rifftastic rolodex. ‘Quiet‘ starts off promising yet goes nowhere, taking all of 5 minutes to arrive, Grant sounding bored and spaced out, Taka’s bass invisible, and ‘Sunrise‘ plods along without leaving even the faintest imprint on the memory.
Thankfully, the power trio don’t surrender the album’s early momentum, and the title track is a combustible anthem (“Generation freakshow, let’s go!”), a tune that wouldn’t sound out of place on ‘Echo Park‘. ‘Tiny Minds‘, meanwhile, churns along on a bed of grunge guitars and has the loud/quiet dynamic down to a tee, rounded off with a grand mini-solo a la Slash.
While ‘In All Honesty‘ sounds like second-rate Maximo Park, frisky yet forced, ‘Headstrong‘ is all swagger (“Good times! Good times!”) and tidal wave guitars, utterly listenable. ‘Fools Can’t Sleep‘, for its part, sounds like a bad cover of Tom Jones’ ‘Delilah‘, or, if you will, as incongruous as TJ attempting ‘Buck Rodgers‘ – the guitars blunted, the serenade and folky twang sounding a little too far from Feeder’s comfort zone.
The lush swooning outro, ‘Children of the Sun‘, restores order, injecting an introspective element into proceedings, and an encore – a hidden track concealed after the final number – glides into the horizon with the line, “As daylight turns to dusk, I’ll be watching skylight.”
‘Generation Freakshow’ is a wistful catalogue of rock songs that show Feeder to be more than deserving of their place at the top table of UK Brit rock.
Good on you, boys.
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