At some point, around 2005, the world went slightly mad. Soft rock, as in the type popularised in the 1970s, suddenly underwent a critical reappraisal. Bands like Supertramp, 10CC and Toto were deemed to be cool again and it was almost a crime not to like ELO‘s Mr Blue Sky (which is, let’s face it, pretty ace).
The Feeling were at the forefront of this ‘new wave of soft pop’, as absolutely nobody dubbed it. They proudly proclaimed their ‘uncoolness’ in interviews. Dapper frontman Dan Gillespie Sells encouraged fans at gigs to ‘embrace the cheese’. And they supported the likes of The Fray, Bon Jovi and, rather oddly, The Charlatans. For a while, they were pretty successful, with their first two albums selling in respectable numbers.
Then, in 2011, the band’s third album Together We Were Made was released and was so indifferently received it’s unlikely that even the band can remember recording it. A greatest hits set quickly followed, and it was generally assumed that The Feeling would fade away, maybe being destined to be remembered as “you know, that band who wore waistcoats… one of them was married to Sophie Ellis Bextor“.
Yet you can’t keep a good band of soft-rock revivalists down, and one listen to Boy Cried Wolf will confirm that they know their template, and they’re sticking to it. While nobody really expected an avant-garde remake of Metal Machine Music, much of Boy Cried Wolf is so beige that it makes Coldplay sound like a Suuns tribute act.
Yet, they still know how to insert a catchy hook into a song. Rescue has a naggingly insistent piano riff running through it, even if it does sound like a Scouting For Girls cast-off; opening track Blue Murder has a chorus that redefines the word ‘soaring’; and Fall Like Rain is a genuinely pretty little piano ballad. Yet it takes more than a few catchy choruses to make a decent album, and here’s where Boy Cried Wolf falls down.
For, while there’s not much to actively hate on The Feeling’s fourth album, there’s certainly not much to love. It just produces a huge cloud of indifference and apathy from one medium-paced ballad to another medium paced ballad, while it will be easy to grow weary of the tinkling piano that seems to be culled from a 1980s Meatloaf album.
The problem is that there’s no real subtlety – each track seems almost desperate to be epic and huge, to tug on the heartstrings with a big chorus. Yet while they aim for the sort of pop ballad that Take That perfected on Rule The World, the impression is more that of Westlife slowly clambering from their stools again and again. It’s not so much music for a stadium full of lighters, but for a back room of a pub, lit by mobile phone screens as punters wander off to the exit.
Now and again though, The Feeling check the temptation to go for the epic chorus, as on the delightfully restrained You’ll See. For once, Gillespie Sells doesn’t sound like he’s straining to reach the big notes, and as a result he sounds far more affecting and poignant. Inevitably, the song builds up to a big crescendo but, for once, the emotional impact remains.
If the band had concentrated on moments like this, Boy Cried Wolf could have been a far more successful album. As it is, there’s a paucity of imagination on display that results in this just being a rather bland, if admittedly radio-friendly, record. And while long-standing fans will find much to enjoy, there’s nothing to suggest a second wave in The Feeling’s popularity is at all likely.