Album Review: Feeder - 'Tallulah'

The veteran Welsh rockers deliver a healthy dose of nostalgia whilst maintaining pressure on the accelerator on a pleasant, if predictable, tenth record.

When Newport-based Feeder first unraveled from the variety of guises they previously performed under in 1994, and eventually released debut record Polythene in May 1997, they were heralded as the British equivalent to The Smashing Pumpkins, whilst likenesses to Pixies and Talk Talk naturally formed as well. Fast forward twenty-five years, and Grant Nicholas and Taka Hirose are still going at it. With twenty Top 40 singles already under their belts, the Welsh outfit return this year with their tenth studio record Talulah, a fitting summary of the band’s career to date.

A staple element of the 90s British guitar movement, Feeder ended a brief hiatus in 2016 with the release of All Bright Electric and later the Best of… compilation, and arguably picked up a fresh fanbase rooted in the developing generation of rock-loving teenagers. On Tallulah, Feeder’s recent resurgence acts as a reminder that nostalgia can play a vital part of some reunions, but at some point fades away to make room for the excitement of a totally modern proportion. For both the band and their fans, minds are no longer being cast back to the past. The last three years have been a relentless display of conviction for both Nicholas and Hirose and their latest LP contains a host of pleasant guitar-driven singles, many of which possess murmurings of the grunge movement whilst being non-discriminatory about including more pop-centred inspirations.

"We were reminiscing on all of the days we were touring and growing up in South Wales, dreaming of being a band."

We’re just lovers on the run, California here we come’ chimes a bounding Nichols on frenetic opening single Youth. Ringing with childlike glee from beginning to end, the track’s pounding tempo is reminiscent of blink-182’s high-octane alternative rock drive and washes an instantaneous bliss over its listener. Speaking of the single ahead of the album release Nicholas said ‘We were reminiscing on all of the days we were touring and growing up in South Wales, dreaming of being a band. It’s a very simple message but it’s a classic road trip song and that’s what I was trying to write really. It came incredibly naturally. It’s old school Feeder, it touches on things like the more indie-rock, bouncy side to Feeder and not the more anthemic, heavier side. It touches on songs like Insomnia I suppose which is still a big part of our sound as a band.’

Image courtesy of Steve Gullick

As the record progresses, waves of nostalgia wash over Nicholas’ lyrics and the band’s guitars. The spiralling Blue Sky Blue traverses influences including Pixes and more contemporary rock icons Biffy Clyro. A melodic, high-spirited message of defiance, the single is lyrically resonant with a mass audience, showing that even in their tenth studio record Feeder are capable of crafting lighter-waiving moments. Despite a stuttering start, Daily Habit evolves into a charmingly melodic rock single, with a driving chorus and purposeful lyrics that hit out at the modern generation’s propensity for affection in a consumer-led society. Lines ‘Put your foot on the break don’t tire / There’s a cliff ahead and a forest fire,’ doesn't bring to mind some of Britain’s finest lyricists, but the warmth that resonates as guitars combine with vocals is surreal, conjuring a sense of raw and genuine emotion that warps into the LP's dynamic.

Whilst Rodeo needs to be taken with a pinch of salt, feeling more suited to the credit roll of a feel-good movie with its relatively lukewarm texture failing to stir an ounce of passion, Shapes and Sounds possesses a propulsive arena rock energy. The sound of a band happy with where they are in life, there’s nothing risqué in Shapes and Sounds, a distinctly English equivalent to a modern day Foo Fighters single. There’s less of an edge, less of a bite, and more of a celebration of still being in the industry that they first entered twenty-five years ago.

"There’s less of an edge, less of a bite, and more of a celebration of still being in the industry that they first entered twenty-five years ago."

Perhaps the most unapologetically classic Feeder sound is woven through the pulsating Fear of Flying, a single set to resonate with hordes of fans young and old across the world. Even speaking of the single, Nicholas is unwavering about its roots. ‘It’s a proper 90s rock song,’ he offers. ‘We’re a band from the 90s and I’m proud of what we’re doing. I suppose it’s a classic Feeder song with a darker verse and an uplifting chorus. It touches on the fear of the bubble bursting when you’re successful, thinking when’s it going to end or can it continue the success, which is something that every artist goes through at some point once they’ve tasted success. It touches on the social media dynamic that’s come into music as well, the whole everyone’s a critic element.’ Even if everyone’s a critic, there’s not a lot out of the ordinary that can be said about Fear of Flying. There’s no hidden surprise, no act or conceptual genius behind the single that first sparked the album campaign. Fear of Flying is pure and simple guitar rock that bridges the grunge movement, harking back to the duo’s early catalogue of hits.

Despite a variety of nostalgia-soaked tracks that fall kindly upon the Feeder sound of yesteryear, Tallulah offers some sparks of encouragement. Its title track transpires a prism of bold and electrifying depths. What first starts as a nervy message of heightened disparity builds into a kaleidoscopic array of instrumentation, harnessed by intermittent, skittish synth effects which flicker between the seething guitar arrangement.

Album closer Lonely Hollow Days is an airy acoustic offering dipped in tranquil production that intertwines with Nicholas’ ragged vocals. Therapeutic and free-flowing, the careless nature of the single is much akin to the frontman’s solo material recorded and released between the band’s hiatus in 2014. Whilst Guillotine, one of the first tracks written for the record by Nicholas, retains a sense of beguiling mystery with the help of an enchanting keyboard section, Kite recalls the penmanship of John Lennon with a subtle Beatles texture running full flow across the single.

Tallaluh Album Artwork

Arguably the greatest product of the Newport band’s newfound creative drive however is seen in the ferocious Kyoto, a dangerous, lurking track that illuminates purpose. Its gnarly riff is in essence bolder than the rest of Tallulah combined, whist the bridge tiptoes along a hazardous tripwire before falling into a canyon of live-wired instrumentation.

"Its gnarly riff is in essence bolder than the rest of Tallulah combined."

Whilst Feeder’s revitalisation in the modern era brings to mind the likes of Stereophonics and Manic Street Preachers (two iconic, and notably Welsh, bands seemingly enjoying a purple patch in their now-veteran status), in truth, Talulah is nothing but a pure and simple rock record, which potentially doesn’t do justice to the talents of Nicholas and Hirose as well-intentioned musicians.

The record won’t change the course of rock’s future, but sometimes music doesn’t need to be made to conquer such hurdles. Rock at its core is a simple dose of primality, a snapshot of life unhinged. For a band that many questioned if they still had it in them to build support instead of simply ride on nostalgia, Feeder have crafted a blissful new soundscape of material that feels destined to fit alongside the protracted list of hits they’ve amassed to date.