We like Feeder round these parts. Their single Suffocate is seldom off the SPIKE stereo, and we were pleasantly surprised to see the band supporting REM on their recent tour. The band’s recent string of singles has been spectacular, too, throwing a range of different influences into the mix and giving them all a good kicking.
Despite our bias, though, Yesterday Went Too Soon is a disappointing album, and the main problem is the production. Eschewing the studio polish of their previous album, the band has produced the follow-up without any outside influences. The results, unfortunately, are less than spectacular. The effects-laden vocal that works so well in a song like “Day In Day Out” is repeated on every single track, and the rockier songs suffer from a lack of low-end punch.
A criticism often levelled at Feeder is that they write two songs – a fast one and a slow one. While there’s some truth in this, it didn’t do Nirvana any harm. And that’s the problem – with a Nevermind-style production, Yesterday Went Too Soon would have been a perfect rock album, with plenty of bombastic noise in between the more reflective songs. Instead, the livelier tracks buzz around like pathetic drunken wasps, while the bass guitar is so quiet that you’d be forgiven for thinking it isn’t there at all. “Insomnia” suffers most from the weedy sound, sounding great when it blares out of Radio Fab FM but less involving on the actual CD. If you’ve seen the band live, you’ll know that they’re one of the most exciting live bands we’ve got right now – on the evidence of the album, though, they’re about as rocktastic as the St Winifred’s School Choir.
It’s not all bad news, though – there are still enough moments of songwriting genius to make the album worth buying, or at least worth shoplifting from the local HMV. “Day In Day Out” is a cracking song, combining Beatles harmonies with big guitars, while the title track could make a brick cry. The mantra-like “Tinseltown” is surprisingly affecting, too, and “You’re My Evergreen” sounds like 3 Colours Red. In a nice way.
The overall sound of Yesterday Went Too Soon is that of a band given perhaps a little too much leeway in the studio. “Anaesthetic” is a great song ruined by pointless heavy metal interludes, and the vocal effects detract from Grant Nicholas’ powerful voice. Other singers have used effects on entire albums in the past – notably John Lennon and Matt “The The” Johnston – but it just makes Grant sound like he’s got a nasty head cold and overpowers the rest of the music.
Yesterday Went Too Soon is a frustrating album from a great band. For every flash of inspiration there’s a leaden post-punk stomp, and the band seem to be suffering an identity crisis – the epic title track simply doesn’t fit with tinny nonsense like “Hole In My Head”. If the band wanted to sound like Sham 69 they’ve managed admirably, but you can’t help feeling they’re capable of so much more.
Feeder, then: good band, good singer, good songs, awful sound. Let’s hope they get a producer in for the next record – in the meantime, go and see them live instead.