Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Feeling - Join With Us (Island)

Talk about big shoes to fill. Our inane gushing over Twelve Stops And Home, the debut album from The Feeling, certainly presented its down points. Off the back of our obsession, two highly impeccable live performances seemed largely dry in comparison – and now with their second album accosting the shelves, it too will have a bitch of a time fighting the shadow of its predecessor.

And, much like Twelve Stops And Home, there’s no one genre in which you could shoehorn Join With Us. The disheartening allure of Without You; the drunken waltz of Don’t Make Me Sad; the now-familiar pulsating pop of lead single I Thought It Was Over – there are twice as many ticked boxes as there are tracks. But at first listen, Join With Us lacks a depth that previous material held in abundance.

Take for instance, Turn It Up, with its iffy balance of blandness and bells ‘n’ whistles, which turns proceedings all a bit Margate. Elsewhere, Spare Me reaches for the profundity and sensitivity of Blue Piccadilly, yet just falls short. There’s a very perceptible knowingness throughout much of the album, and it suffers ever so faintly for it.

That in mind, it seems The Feeling are at their best when drawing a line under their previous success, and referencing that of their musical forerunners. The title track sees a shameless channelling of ELO by way of the Beatles' Drive My Car (to great effect, we might add), a similar method employed by their orderly take on the Beach Boys on the exuberant Won’t Go Away.

However, this approach has its negatives. As addressed in our recent Single Review, it’s hard not to be distracted by Dan Gillespie-Sells’ exasperating Americanisation of his R’s, which is not only annoying given the otherwise quintessential Englishness of The Feeling, but is gratingly inconsistent. One minute it’s “never”, the next verse it’s “neveRRRRR”, as though he’s periodically possessed by Joss Stone.

Perhaps we’re nitpicking just a tad. On the whole, it’s hard to label Join With Us as anything other than a solid pop record. Sure, it may only scratch the surface where Twelve Stops And Home dug trenches, but we’re positive it’s all part of an unhurried evolution for what is, fundamentally, one of Britain’s most gifted bands. Which, loosely translated, means we’re putting all our hopes into album three.

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