Gig review: Feeder @ KOKO, 31/01/12

(This is a review for BBM Magazine, also available here:

Feeder might be the band that rock and roll forgot. Surpassed by their countrymen and contemporaries like Coldplay and Stereophonics, Grant Nicholas and Taka Hirose have fallen, somewhat, between the cracks in history’s floorboards, casually dropped down the back of her sofa, never really absorbed into the post-Britpop indie scene, nor the early-00s mainstream metal resurgence. And tonight’s crowd reflects this. A smorgasbord of faces and ages – 14 to 65, at a guess – make up all 5 tiers of KOKO’s gorgeous theatre. Fans of a band whose output spans twenty one years, there are the awkwardly dancing middle-aged, the hard-faced thirty-somethings, the swooning teens. A farrago, an apathy.

The show begins with gentle clapping more akin to golf tournament applause then frenzied exultation. T-shirted to hell they may be, but this crowd does not declare its love of Feeder with noise. Frontman Grant Nicholas takes to the stage alone, opening, idiosyncratically, with ‘Children of the Sun’, the final track of new album Generation Freakshow (Big Teeth) which is due out in April. Cordially received, he is joined by bassist Taka Hirose, now the only other constituent member of Feeder, and collaborator/session drummer Damon Wilson. Tearing through ‘This Town’ and ‘Renegades’ without so much as a breath of interaction with the audience, Nicholas and Hirose struggle to get KOKO’s feet moving. TV marketing joyride ‘Feeling The Moment’ lifts the balconies clean off the walls with cacophonies of ‘wooohhhh’. But ‘Sunrise’, despite sounding eerily like The Pixies’ ‘Where Is My Mind?’, is a disappointment. (At this point, about ten minutes of review material was lost to knee-wobbling nausea as the man in front of me shoved his hand down the front of his lady friend’s trousers. Sorry for going a bit gonzo. But you didn’t have to see it, did you?)

Then we get going. The chords that open ‘Just The Way I’m Feeling’ are beautiful, filling the theatre, that echo and reverb which is so much a part of Feeder’s live sound now paying off. The chorus is enormous, the sing-along seismic. Nicholas strums the opening chords of ‘Buck Rogers’ and stops. “We’re not playing that tonight,” he jokes, to boos and panto hisses. “It’s that fucking Lucozade ad, they ripped us off” – before the band burst in and the players and lemons get the floor bouncing. ‘Idaho’ and ‘Generation Freakshow’ hint at a new album with all the hooks and cute swagger of Echo Park (Echo, 2001), the fuzzy, frisky rock of Silent Cry (Echo, 2008). A re-appraisal of Feeder rather than a revolution.

It’s hard to see what Feeder do differently. Like the Foo Fighters, or Muse, one never has a craving to escape deeply into them, often merely to paddle. On the basis of tonight’s showcase, there is little that is profound about their new material. But encore tracks ‘High’ and the ever-tremendous ‘Just A Day’ remind everyone here that however loosely new skin may fit for the seasoned or casual fan of the Big Hits, multiple platinum-selling albums are rarely the accidents of history, and these are great songs, no matter how much history – from tonight’s evidence – has left Feeder behind.


Album Review: Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross, ‘The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo’

(This is a review for BBM Magazine, also available here:

Already nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Original Score, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross follow 2010’s Academy Award-winning soundtrack to 2010’s The Social Network with another ambient masterpiece aimed at maneuvering your insides. The score, the second at the behest of director David Fincher, underwrites The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo with all the moody tones and tickling clicks of The Social Network besides new, post-industrial machinations in the disturbing. This 30-track score sits on you like clay.

So heavy is this soundtrack with the haunting noise of the production line and of meaty industry that the first track, ‘Immigrant Song’ (featuring Karen O of The Yeah Yeah Yeahs), sounds like Led Zeppelin on fire in a mine. How To Destroy Angels unsurprisingly pop up to cover Bryan Ferry’s ‘Is Your Love Strong Enough?’ and rattle it around a steelworks. ‘Pinned and Mounted’ sews and threads, ‘You’re Here’ is a racket of glass, hammers and drills. This is sumptuous stuff, deliciously laden, thickly spread and heavy set. Much of it sings like Mogwai or a dirty Sigur Ros. Tormenting and smart, it broods like The Social Network but skillfully balances shuttling keys with sombre shadow.

The tonal balance is not always nimble. Often, it sprays itself a little too much in synth-farts, like a Doom soundtrack, or some of the less fortunate middle eights of late-90s nu-metal. ‘With The Flies’, for example, feels like the accidental lisp of an old stereo that ought really to be thrown away. ‘Another Way of Caring’ comes and leaves like a reminder to put the washing on.

But some – nay, most – of it soars. Really soars. ‘A Thousand Details’ hums and snarls like the finest of The Prodigy. ‘Parallel Timeline With Alternate Outcome’ is sweetly atonal, imbued with a romantic cyber-seduction. ‘A Viable Construct’ is almost tangibly disgusting – it pulls you into the final act like a nauseous sprint to the kitchen sink. And if there is a better piece of work released this year than ‘What If We Could?,’ 2012 is an unfathomable barrel of roses. This is not just a dark and ominous score – Reznor and Ross set out, it seems, to singe with white noise and static, to fill your maw with the dull ache of muddy drums. It is pure kinesis.