If Feeding People were to inform us what they’re indeed feeding people with, the answer would surely be short and simple: garage rock. For with Island Universe, the second album released by the California band, immediacy appears to be key.
There is a frenzied urgency with which the band rip through their repertoire of noisy songs, with album opener Mountain Song being deceivingly melodic and warmly welcoming, before the darker and more menacing sounding Uranium Sea swoops forebodingly upon us like the soundtrack to a burgeoning Tarantino bloodbath.
It is perhaps in this song that the quality of singer Jessie Jones’ voice first becomes apparent; it is the glue that holds the seams together, weaving between the meandering aggression found in the music with a tone that manages to be both smooth and commanding. Indeed, though the band are altogether impressive, it is Jones’s voice that is the surely the icing on the cake, spearheading the bulk of the noise emanating from her band-mates with a deceivingly inviting touch. That said, though the press release likes to compare Jones’ ability to that of Jefferson Airplaine‘s Grace Slick and one Janis Joplin, the 19-year-old falls short of such steep expectations. Her voice is nowhere near as roughly soulful as the latter, nor as witchily powerful as Slick’s, and Jones results in merely sounding her age, possessing a voice too assertive for someone younger, though with a delivery that reaches for higher echelons that will inevitably come with time.
Insane plods along in an accusatory manner before pouncing at the listener with a frantic chorus that harkens back to punk, whilst the scuzzy guitars sound promisingly rowdy. It sounds like a spectacle that would be worth observing in a live setting. Immediately following is the interestingly entitled Cat Song, and it is here that Island Universe first sounds misguided. The song feels somewhat awkward, as if the band were aiming for a goal and missed the mark, betraying their previous energy with an attempt to be pensive and sedate. There are instances from then on where the songs begin to feel repetitive, especially in the second half, though Desert Song shakes up the psychedelic rowdiness in the manner of a snake-charmer averting our attention for two or so minutes. It carries a beat almost too fun to feel in place with what came before; it’s as if it’s a cousin rather than a sibling of the previous songs.
Amongst occasional moments of mediocrity, Feeding People have created some brilliantly energetic songs, especially in regards to previously released Big Mother, a frivolous whelp of a song that, though only timing in at a minute and a half, manages to embody the band’s glaring spark of energy. Inside Voices and Island Universe are also highlights, the former being a stomping frenzy stating that “everybody’s sick and tired of being bored” whilst the latter is a beach-side lullaby to a summer evening and, though uncharacteristic in comparison with other songs, is a welcome respite.
It is of no surprise why Crystal Antlers‘ Johnny Bell was involved in the production of Island Universe; the youthful eagerness is evident in the experimentations of Jones and co. But at times it feels as if the band are carving themselves out intentionally as a rough diamond, resisting any attempts at polishing for fear of losing any semblance of garage band authenticity. Despite this, Island Universe is a reassuringly confident and energetic album, and suggests a band with enough promise to make even stronger bodies of work in the future.