Review Summary: Generation Freakshow isn't going to reclaim Feeder's former widespread popularity, but it's certainly good enough, and familiar enough, to keep the fans happy.
In recent years, Feeder have seemed to fade into the background of the British rock scene, never quite recapturing the joy and energy that once made them the country's favourite pop rock icons. Singles such as "Buck Rogers" and "Just a Day" were fun, infectious anthems, while "Seven Days in the Sun" got the heart racing and the fists pumping. This was 2001. It's now 2012, and Feeder have never been less relevant.
Since the untimely death of their drummer, Jon Lee, in 2002, Feeder have found themselves amidst an ongoing identity crisis -- always struggling to express themselves whilst maintaining mainstream appeal. Pushing the Senses was the culmination of Feeder's foray into the introspective, emotional side of Brit-pop -- for which they always had one foot in the door -- with heartfelt tunes the likes of "Tender" and "Pain on Pain". This sound felt comfortable for them in a time of grief, but it wasn't the band that the country had once fallen in love with. Pushing the Senses was an album that many found to be stale and without drive. Since then, Feeder have fought to reclaim their credibility by desperately trying to convince us all that they are still a rock band at heart. This saw them focusing too much on delivering riffs and powerchords, meanwhile forgetting the melodic side that once made them more than just a rock band. A temporary rebranding and downright bad album (Renegades) later, and Feeder seem to have settled into their true comfort zone.
Generation Freakshow harkens back to the sound of Echo Park with its impressive display of soft-loud dynamics. Rarely content with making just a rock song, or just a ballad, Feeder once more find themselves perfectly melding the two approaches, with songs that manage to express a sense of melody alongside uplifting, anthemic choruses. "Sunrise" is a good example of such a song, whose quieter moments lead seemlessly into one of the more feel-good refrains of Feeder's career, thematically representing a less punky take on "Seven Days in the Sun". This song wouldn't feel out of place on Echo Park or Comfort in Sound; nor, as a matter of fact, would most of the songs on Generation Freakshow. As such, it is easy (and justified) to generalise Generation Freakshow as a simple retread; however given that a great number of Feeder fans have been so bitterly disappointed by the band's output for the past decade, this serves as more of a complement than a biting dismissal.
While most of the songs on Generation Freakshow follow the same pattern of soft verse, big chorus, (almost) each song still manages to feel unique and memorable, thanks to well-crafted vocal melodies and instrumentation. Some variety is found in the edgy rock songs "Generation Freakshow" and "Headstrong", as well as the calming "Quiet", all of which serve to maintain the album's momentum and the listener's interest. "Tiny Minds" is Generation Freakshow's notable mis-step, and the only song that manages to plod along at a pace that is entirely forgettable, somewhat dampening the album's otherwise reasonably solid consistency. "Fools Can't Sleep" and "Children of the Sun" close of the album in a rather understated manner; these songs aren't nearly as disappointing as "Tiny Minds", but they wont so much pique your excitement either.
One of the more relieving things to note regarding Generation Freakshow is that most of the lyrics are completely forgettable. This, what might be interpreted as a criticism on most occasions, is here a saving grace for Feeder's latest album. Sophisticated lyrics have never been a mainstay of Feeder's music -- as evidenced by the entirity of "Buck Rogers" -- and this has rarely been an issue. What was an issue, however, was the poor lyrical quality of Feeder's last album, Renegades, and thankfully, this is not repeated with Generation Freakshow. The lyrics here are not exceptional by any means, but one should gladly take mediocre over the cringe-worthiness of the Renegades album. It's comforting to know that front-man Grant Nicholas has not entirely misplaced his (albeit minimal) lyrical credibility.
For the past 10 years Feeder have existed in the shadows of other British rock acts such as Biffy Clyro and Coldplay, not to mention their former selves. Generation Freakshow isn't an album that's going to reclaim the band's former widespread popularity, but it's certainly good enough, and familiar enough, to keep the fans happy. That is if said fans haven't already abandoned Feeder.
@AliW1993: yeah i can see what you mean about the second paragraph. i suppose i wanted to give a bit of background about where the band stands and their struggle to remain relevant (like what coventrydrummer did, if my attempts were a little less succinct).
@coventrydrummer: thanks but i think your review's great. you see what i mean when i say we both had basically the same things to say about this? i think we differ on our choice of standout songs, but in terms of the band's recent trajectory we seem to be in agreement. your review makes mine a little irrelevant but nevermind.
listened to this again on my commute. i think rating may have been premature, might bump to 3.5 when the editing function gets restored. atm my favourite tracks are in all honestly, generation freakshow and headstrong, but that seems to change each day. not sure about the choice of children of the sun as single. on the one hand its one of the least fun and catchy songs on the album, but then again take that fans will probably lap it up. it would probably make a good 2012 x-factor winners single lol.
Add to that the fact that Grant Nicholas now looks like Gary Barlow nowadays! It's a decent enough single, but it just reeks of Silent Cry; decent enough, but it just doesn't pique my interest.
I probably should have put In All Honesty in the recommended tracks, that song's grown on me. At first with all the Doo doo doo's it reminded me of a Renegades song, but only this time it sounds good. It's catchy too.
Okay, first of all how can you say 'majority of Feeder fans have been so bitterly disappointed by the band's output for the past decade' that is completely untrue..
and then you bluntly suggest that we'd all abandonned them after Renegades, when it doesnt occur to you that they might have picked up new fans (for example.. me) during Renegades (yes, it wasnt because of Renegades that i liked them, but i wasnt put off).
I respect people's opinions, but when I constantly come across people who try to tell us why we cannot like Feeder, that there mustn't be anyone who likes Feeder anymore and in this case, that Feeder fans don't even like Feeder, it gets a bit disheartening. Because, if they were actually given some publicity, they would gain new fans, because everyone who I have introduced to Feeder, likes them. Their early stuff may be better, but it doesnt mean you can't listen to that anymore, and it doesnt mean they dont play it live. There are still many reasons to love Feeder.
spaceagehero you seem defensive. the word "majority" is the key here. i never said "all" fans have been disappointed (you are clearly one of the many exceptions; thats fine). and i never suggested all fans abandoned after renegades, i simply suggested some might have. and im not telling anyone they cannot like feeder. on the contrary, this is a positive review. im not saying feeder fans dont like feeder, and i never suggested that nobody should listen to their old songs anymore (i do) just because they may not like the new ones, and i never made a point that they arent worth seeing live. basically everything you pulled me up on was wrongly extrapolated from what i said.
i think most feeder fans have been disappointed by the last 3 albums before now, but certainly not all. im not even including myself in this, pushing the senses is one of my favourite albums of all time and feeders best album by a mile. regardless of my personal opinion, the consensus is that they've got worse, and my review mainly addressed their current standing in rock with regards to their overall popularity, not my own opinion on quality. you cant possibly say their fanbase / fan dedication has improved in the last 10 years surely. they hit their peak with echo park. im not saying all fans have been disappointed but id wager that the majority have been. i really dont think renegades picked up as many fans as it lost. it was a weak imitation of green day, whereas before feeder were a respectable british equivalent to jimmy eat world (arguably better). im not saying nobody should like feeder anymore. evidently i still do (renegades notwithstanding). silent cry was ok, and the song 'silent cry' is one of my favourite songs of all time. i still love feeder, but i think its pretty clear, at least to most people, that theyve been in a bit of a rut that they're now finally climbing out of. this album is damn good. and they should have new fans from it because they deserve it.
Okay, fair enough. Although I dont think that all of this comes across in the review, I'm not the only one who thinks this.
Sorry if i seem defensive but, it seems to be something that comes with being a feeder fan unfortunately, and I shouldnt have to be. I'm just really passionate about them, and with some of the other reviews I've seen, I had to say something so people get the whole picture.
Oh dear reviewer, you can't go about calling albums embarrassing just because you don't like them, that's just embarrassing, for you.
For your information. Renegades is what Feeder have always been about, modelled as it was on their earlier releases of Swim and Polythene. Like those records you'll only really 'get it' if you see it played live.
Feeder lost their hardcore fan base with the disappointing Pushing The Senses and then lost the casual fans (or the 'majority' as you call them) with the long hiatus they then took and then the badly received Silent Cry. It's still a decent album though but they no longer play anything from it.
Renegades actually appears to have been a big success for them, not saleswise but because it's sound has brought back in their old fan base and opened them up to a new younger crowd, perhaps the kids have grown tired of Green Day.
Generation Freakshow seems a gentle progression onwards, like Yesterday Went Too Soon was from Polythene. Yet they play it live with the same aggression that they play the Renegades stuff.
Somehow I doubt that Feeder have ever seen themselves as being 'relevant' as they've always been derided by reviewers no matter what they've done. They just get on with doing what they do and being a great band.
i think it was an embarassingly bad album with cringe-worthy lyrics. that is my opinion. my review voices said opinion.
and i disagree that renegades is what they've always been about. i'm a fan of swim and polythene, and those albums are not at all pop punk, they're post-grunge, with metal influence. renegades is very much leaning towards pop punk.
i disagree that you only "get" swim and polythene when you see it live. those records are great as records. when i judge an album, i judge the album, not how it sounds live. renegades was not a good album. perhaps in a low-quality venue where you can't pick out the lyrics then renegades may not be so bad.
i also disagree that pushing the senses was disappointing. as i said in the review, many fans found it disappointing. i, personally, think its one of the best albums of all time. silent cry is an OK album but nothing more. generation freakshow is a lot better than silent cry.
i don't think renegades brought back the old fan base. not judging from online forums containing discussions between hardcore fans.
basically, to sum up, i disagree with you.
generation freakshow is a great album. renegades sits as their worst album. silent cry is clearly their second worst. pushing the senses is the best. generation freakshow sits along all the other albums in the middle. its great.
i seem to think a couple of you commenters are getting the impression im a hater of feeder. they've been one of my favourite bands for many, many years. they have many great albums. pushing the senses is an album that resonates with me so deeply. i couldn't listen to it for an entire year at one point, because every time i heard it i got too emotional. maybe that puts into context why silent cry and especially renegades were a huge disappointment. not because im hating on the band, but because i know just what theyre capable of and how much potential they have to make music thats really special. generation freakshow reclaims a lot of that potential, and that's awesome.
I think the thing that disappointed people about Renegades is that for the fans who stuck with Feeder throughout, some of them may not have wanted them to return to the Polythene days. I myself was on the fence; excited to hear new, heavy Feeder material, but didn't mind if they stuck to the more mature-sounding stuff. For me, Polythene just seemed like they were pandering to people by being overly heavy and not concentrating on the songs themselves.
Swim was my favourite Feeder album for a good while when I first got it (see my fanboy-ish review to see what I mean - I overrated so many of the songs!), but after a while the initial appeal seemed to wane. It's still got some of their best songs (Descend, Shade), but most of them seemed a bit too one-dimensional. That's how Renegades came across to me; one-dimensional, only without any redeeming factors. What I will say is their more mature works like YWTS, CiS and PTS tend to have longer-lasting appeal as whole albums. You're right that Polythene was melodic, albeit in a somewhat subtle manner. Listen to that album after Renegades and/or Swim and it elevates the experience. I could go on about each album in depth....
You're entitled to your opinion but reviews are supposed to be objective.
I was merely stating facts. Grant himself described Renegades as a return to our roots and really what we're always been about.
It's your use of embarrassing that I find so objectionable. The band clearly aren't embarrassed by it, five different tracks played from Renegades on the first three nights of their current tour. In high quality venues with great sound systems by the way. ;)
and anyway you're all wrong 'Yesterday Went Too Soon' is their greatest album