It seems to necessarily follow that as soon as a band reaches a certain level of fame then one of the things you do, after Kate Moss, is talk up another group. An altruistic gesture from persons attempting to use their exposure for good? Maybe, but it’s probably more about hedging your bets.
Let me explain: say Band A is doing well. They then acclaim Band B as the next big thing. An army of A&R Men, record label executives, blaggers, liggers and fashionista, swamps band B. Band B then get big but somewhere along the line disaster strikes and Band A lose their flavour of the month status. Then, in a cute reversal of the initial patronage, Band B can remind one and all how great Band A are, and the circle of fame can continue.
There is a point to all this hypothesising, and it’s actually borderline relevant. Because The Features have recently been fostered by the Kings Of Leon; they hail from the same part of the World and have a singer in Matt Pelham who could be a long lost Followhill, but there the similarities end. Well, not quite: there’s a few tracks on Exhibit A that could be by the Kings, but not in a bad way. Indeed, the Leon lads must be looking quite enviously in the direction of both Exhibit A and Harder To Ignore, before falling down begging for some of whatever when into making the searing, careering Exorcising Demons.
But there the similarities end. They don’t sing about parties, drugs and erectile dysfunction, they sing about how vinyl just sounds better, about how it would be really nice to just settle down with someone and play charades, and how kids are really great, aren’t they.
While doing it they nod in some unexpected directions: XTC on the organ-centric There’s A Million Ways To Sing The Blues, a Buzzcockian edge to a Tennessee bar-room stomp on Me & The Skirts and the lovely Shack‘esque slice of whimsy which is The Idea Of Growing Old, which turns the rock and roll staple of dying young on its head to become: “I wanna die after I’ve been with someone for so long that we can take afternoon naps together”, which actually comes off as cute and smart, rather than eye-rollingly sentimental.
And with the exception of the 45 loving Blow It Out, which sounds like an excited letter to Readers Hi-Fi, this is a bunch of really great pop-rock songs. It’s almost soft-rock, but to describe it like that would leave The Features open to being placed in a bunch of Time Life compilations for driving that aren’t available in the shops but can be yours for three easy payments – which is a fate worse than death. And The Features deserve better. Because Exhibit A is a primary part of the case for quality song craft over style and I very much doubt anyone will have any objections.