Thirteen years ago a very young and spritely three-piece from Cardiff made their debut with an album called Polythene. It was a very heavy record, owing much to the grunge/alt.rock glory days of Nirvana, Dinosaur Jr and Smashing Pumpkins. That band was Feeder.
In the 13 years and five albums that followed, they’ve had much to deal with. Shortly after their breakthrough in 2001 with Echo Park, original drummer and founding member Jon Lee tragically cut short his own life. Instead of calling time on the band, frontman Grant Nicholas and bassist Taka Hirose decided to keep going and made three more albums – Comfort In Sound, Pushing The Sense and Silent Cry – with Skunk Anansie drummer Mark Richardson.
Now, following another drummer change – Karl Brazil is the new man behind the drumkit as Richardson returns to his reformed old band – they’ve decided to reinvent themselves. The hook-laden indie rock of the past that brought them such hits as Buck Rogers and Feeling The Moment has been shunned aside as they return full-circle to their grunge roots. Renegades, which was also the name of their alter-ego band that previewed new material earlier this year, is a drastic change but it’s also one that has given them a new lease of life. It’s also their first self-released album, after the creation of their label, Big Teeth Records.
Renegades is a concise and consistent rock record that rarely fails to thrill. From the opening salvo of White Lines right through to the thundering climax of The End, with a mid-tempo lighters-in-the-air anthem in-between courtesy of Down To The River, it’ll no doubt make old-school fans jump in the air with joy. Songs like Home find the band at their most frantic-paced in years and songs like Sentimental deliver deliciously heavy drop-D chords and a pounding bassline to boot.
There are two other main factors as to why this succeeds on so many levels. Firstly, this is the first album since the death of Lee where it has felt like Feeder have been able to turn a new page. Their previous three records were poignant affairs, so to hear Nicholas bellow songs like Barking Dogs and Left Foot Right is heartwarming. Secondly, it’s a change in direction that doesn’t feel contrived or forced – instead it feels like a natural step forward, the start of a new chapter in the band’s long career.
It remains to be seen whether this will hit the commercial heights that Echo Park and Comfort In Sound achieved, but Feeder are rejuvenated with fire in their belly. It is a genuine thrill to see a band overcome so much tragedy and changes to regain their confidence. It feels like being reunited with a close friend you’ve not seen for over a decade. Renegades, quite unexpectedly, is one of the best British rock albums you will hear all year.