The fact that Feeder still have a presence within British rock is stranger than it might appear. They’re often grouped with bands like Stereophonics that rose to prominence in the late ‘90s over the first wave of Britrock, and while they’ve not aged as poorly as that band have, they’ve hardly been on the hottest streak lately. As capable as they are at churning out singles when the occasion demands it, their albums have taken something of a decline, particularly 2016’s All Bright Electric, though it’s not done that much damage to their standing. They still continue to have a platform in the larger realm of British rock, regardless of how milquetoast and middle-of-the-road they can seem, and despite not being the most cutting-edge band around, their longevity that’s come from doing relatively little is commendable. And even then, that can sometimes lead to moments of surprising quality, just like the singles from tenth album Tallulah; nothing within the core Feeder formula has been changed, but an increased melodic sharpness can have a positive impact when it’s been done as well as it has.
However, regardless of how much of an improvement Tallulah is (and it definitely is, pretty much across the board), it’s still hard to give it a glowing recommendation. It’s primarily because Feeder still aren’t aiming beyond that middle-of-the-road lane that they’ve been going down for a good few years now, and while there’s not too much to criticise with that approach on Tallulah, there’s not all that much to praise either. This is certainly a solid album, particularly when Feeder’s last few efforts have refused to stick beyond scattered singles, and even with more overall consistency here, they still aren’t able to crack their own standards of straight-up rock set by their earlier work.
That’s clear to see when Tallulah has Feeder adopt a slightly slower, more middle-aged variation of their core sound in which greater thrills feel diminished by design. It’s possibly the clearest highlighting of their limitations in some time; there’s nothing inherently wrong with point-A-to-point-B rock music like this and Feeder themselves have done a good job at proving that in the past, but when even that’s been eased back to this extent, it can all feel unmistakably vanilla, especially in areas that visibly aren’t as strong. For all the ambitions to have the likes of Guillotine and Kite as the swelling, breathing ballads that by rights should be right in this band’s wheelhouse, there’s a certain blankness that comes from the no-frills production that, while fine elsewhere, feels oddly restricting when the pace is brought down. It represents just how precarious the balance for Feeder is in terms of the production; it’s pretty no-frills most of the time to give a solid amount of indie-rock crunch to the instrumentation, but with bland open-endedness on one side and toying with more modern elements in the extraneous phaser effects on Fear Of Flying and the trilling synths of the title track on the other, the area for success is definitely a narrow one.
It’s just fortunate that Tallulah generally hits the mark, and though there’s nothing entirely spectacular here, Feeder prove themselves more than capable of delivering catchy, uncomplicated music with ease. The choice to stick with a broader lyrical scope definitely heightens the appeal of Youth’s tales of summer love or Rodeo’s contemplation on relationship turbulence, but it’s the zeroing in on hooks and melodies more so than their last couple of releases that gives Feeder the edge here. There’s a distinct flavour of ‘90s Britrock in the sharp poppiness of Daily Habit and Shapes And Sounds, and coupled with a vocal performance from Grant Nicholas that’s necessarily frayed and aged without sounding unworkably old, they’re decent throwbacks that don’t tamper with a successful formula too much. As for the spacious, more anthemic cuts like Rodeo and the title track, or Kyoto with a more palpable snarl that even crosses over into territory not too far from the Foo Fighters, there’s clearly an eye on the anthemic arena-readiness that Feeder might be past these days, but it’s a good sign that the drive is still there. Indeed, it’s hard to see the same ubiquity as previous emerging from this album, but Feeder’s decision to turn their back on complacency for something a lot more enjoyable feels like a smart one all the same.
And that’s ultimately where Tallulah falls on the spectrum of Britrock in 2019. It’s far from essential, but it’s the sort of throwback from the scene’s elder statesmen that it’s good to have around regardless, if only to show that they’re still capable of some degree of quality. It’s honestly surprising that Feeder have managed to eke as many solid songs as they have out of this, but the results speak for themselves, and with a combination of decent hooks, melodies and overall performances, it’s arguably the simplest way to craft a quality song but an effective one nonetheless. It’s a bit up in the air how long Tallulah’s reverberations of quality will last, but it’s nice to have around for the time being regardless.
For fans of: Ash, Manic Street Preachers, Doves
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Tallulah’ by Feeder is released on 9th August on Believe Records.