To my shame, I own Feeder CDs

I have a confession to make. Last week there was a programme on Channel 4 about Feeder. I found it interesting. Because, whilst today I wouldn’t buy a CD unless it sounded like somebody shoving their laptop through a cheesegrater, back in the day (I can’t remember precisely which day, but it was during 2000) I was a fan of the mundane rock band.

The folly of youth? I don’t know about that. I can’t remember what my first album was, but I think it might have been ‘Octopus’ by The Human League, which in retrospect seems like an odd choice for a boy yet to hit double figures. But anybody who knows me today might think that being interested in electronic music from Sheffield from that early age was amazingly prescient. The first band I truly loved — at the age of nine — was Pulp, a band which I still very much approve of.

Then hair started growing in funny places and I had to go through the process of being a teenager. My taste in music took a bit of a dip as I entered the phase which seems to be mandatory for anybody sitting their Standard Grades (or GCSEs): the GCSE rawk phase. GCSE rawk is the sort of music which kids think will make them the coolest in the playground because it is supposed to be very alternative and underground. But this is a delusion as it is actually pretty banal and mediocre, as the regular airplay on early evening Radio 1 shows.

Most of us have probably been through this phase. And because the GCSE rawk phase hits you at a cruical stage of your development, you can’t ditch it in the same way as I forgot about The Human League. So even though many people my age may have moved on to pastures new in terms of our taste in music, we all have a band that we still follow as a hangover from the GCSE rawk phase. For some people it is Placebo. For others it’s Muse. For me it is Feeder.

And which of those bands have gone on to be the tossiest? Of course it would have to be the one that I liked. This is slightly embarassing for me because many people at school knew I was into Feeder before they had actually become well-known. Feeder weren’t actually bad (honest!) back in the late 1990s. But the moment they started half-heartedly churning out radio-friendly bilge they became pretty big. Most people probably think of Feeder as that pants-wetting band with the awful lyrics. And years after their breakthrough in 2001 I still had people asking me if I still liked Feeder.

One person who I didn’t know at school castigated me when she found Feeder tracks on my MP3 player. She complained: “You like all this weird shit, so why have you got Feeder on there?!” I had difficulty explaining, especially as just minutes ago she found MP3s of the BBC News 24 countdown! My reputation was in tatters.

I found out recently that I still have a soft spot for Feeder though. ‘Polythene’ is not actually a bad album. I was never too keen on heavy rock so at the time I actually preferred their second album, ‘Yesterday Went Too Soon’. In retrospect, it seems more like a stepping stone to the weak style that made them popular.

I look at both albums quite fondly. ‘Yesterday…’ in particular always used to cheer me up if I felt down. The music was fairly good, so you could forgive Grant Nicholas’ sometimes laughable cat-sat-on-the-hat lyrics.

Tangerine
Turning green
Cellophane
Window pane

I swear I did not make that up. Those are the genuine opening lyrics of early fan favourite ‘Tangerine’. Granted, that is a particularly cringeworthy example. But it’s safe to say that Nicholas would not have made it as a poet.

At the time of release, rumour had it that ‘Echo Park’ had to be a success, or Feeder would have lost their record deal. So even though it was quite a weak album with a radio-friendly sheen (yes, you might say that they sold out), some people thought it was just a blip and they would soon be back to their old ways.

Fat chance! That never happens. Feeder are one of those bands where, in the lull between albums, they always claim to be returning to a rockier sound for their next album. They never do. In fact, they are becoming ever more insipid.

Despite the change in direction that their breakthrough single, ‘Buck Rogers’, represents, I actually think it is one of their best songs. I was quite excited when I first heard it, and the video was cool aswell! The album proved to be a disappointment to me, but it brought Feeder commercial success. They had reached a certain status: the sort of band that was popular enough to get invited on to T4, but not popular enough to even think about turning down T4.

A cloud hung over Feeder’s fourth album, ‘Comfort in Sound’. Earlier in the year, drummer Jon Lee had rather mysteriously committed suicide.

Last week’s Channel 4 programme somewhat glossed over this. His death was mentioned, but the fact that it was suicide wasn’t. Instead, they said, “Like fellow Welsh rockers the Manic Street Preachers, they lost a band member to a young age.” I thought the comparison was a bit off. It seemed like a desperate attempt to make Feeder look as good as the Manics. Somehow I get the feeling that rock history will judge Feeder pretty harshly in comparison with the Manics.

Apparently most of ‘Comfort in Sound’ was written before Lee’s death, but it was inevitably going to be viewed in the context of Lee’s death, particularly given the reflective feel of the album. The album confirmed that ‘Echo Park’ was anything but a blip. Feeder had changed musical direction for good, and cemented themselves as one of Britain’s biggest bands in the process, in the medium-term at least.

I was in 6th year at school at the time, and Feeder was on in the common room a lot, be it on radio or CD. By the end of the year I never even noticed when Feeder was on. I had heard the singles so much it was like white noise. Nevertheless, I still think ‘Comfort in Sound’ is a fine album. Okay, it is over-produced and sickeningly radio-friendly. But although I am thoroughly sick of the singles, a lot of the album tracks are really quite good.

Any of their material after that, though, is just unforgivable. Luckily my brother is now a bigger Feeder fan than I am, so I can hear the music without having to shell out for it. Almost without exception, Feeder’s recent material has been real guff of the highest order. It really has been a bittersweet experience to watch the rise in popularity and decline in quality of this band. Six or seven years ago I would have wished them all the recognition in the world. Now I am an old cynic who thinks there is no justice in the world.

I was in HMV last week, and I realised that I recognised the voice that coming through the speakers. I had listened to too much Feeder not to realise that I was listening to Grant Nicholas, yet most people probably wouldn’t notice — the song was so bland.

These days, most of Feeder’s songs sound much the same, and the bad lyrics can’t even be laughed off now. Somewhere along the line Nicholas must have realised that it doesn’t matter how bad the lyrics are — you can still shift records. So his style went in a more cliched and repetitive direction. I’m sure he has had to “cut the ropes around him” at least three different times in his songs. For their latest album, ‘Pushing the Senses’, the lyrics have become plain gibberish at times:

Forever will be
Tumble and fall

What on earth does that mean?

The music is far too polished as well. It might as well be performed by robots. On the Channel 4 programme Grant Nicholas said, “We didn’t use any tape on our last album, which I felt sad about. But you can do so much on Pro Tools these days!” That just sums it up.

Despite the immense length of this post, I have little interest in Feeder now. I haven’t properly been following them for three or four years now, and it will take something big to get me to take notice again. As my friend said to me in HMV, “At least they’re making lots of money.”

21 comments

  1. I recall Feeder from around 1996, when a music fanzine would report on bands playing a local venue. On several occasions Feeder were mentioned, always, if I remember, in the context of their wearing silly orange boiler suits when performing live. Don’t think I ever heard any of the early music…

    But 1996, slightly after my GCSEs, was my Evening Session period, and I still consider 1995-7 to be halcyon days of indie music.

  2. Hah! I’ve never heard the orange boiler suits thing, but it kind of makes sense. I think orange (or ‘tangerine’) was a bit of a trademark colour of Feeder’s back then. In the booklet for ‘Polythene’ they all look a tad ‘cyberpunky’ if you know what I mean…

  3. I used to have a soft-spot for Feeder too, but it ended adruptly around Buck Rodgers, which I couldn’t stand and seemed to be another piece in the puzzle of British “alternative” bands trying to sound commercial and being shit about it – hi there, Lost Prophets, Hundred Reasons, A!

    During my GCSE years I was more into Idlewild, who similarly sung nonsense lyrics and a crappy commercial period which has ended in what looks like disaster. But they could push a punk riff or two, and Hope is Important and Captain are still worth a nolstalgic listen.

    Of course, Indie was at its peak 1998-2001 😀

  4. -10 respect points for use of made up/utterly dire terminology ‘GCSE rawk’.

    However, regarding Feeder, I have to agree with you a fair bit. I’ve liked them since 1996 when I first bought their mini-album Swim, and up until their second album ‘Yesterday Went Too Soon’. Before YWTS, everyone took the piss out of me for liking this unknown rock band, but YWTS got mainsteam play and people sat up and took notice, even agreeing with me Feeder were quite good! Their success was limited, but it sowed the seeds for future success.

    It was Buck Rogers where Feeder became this horrible teen-rock-pop friendly band. Catchy, and very radio friendly and destined for success. I didn’t like Echo Park though. I don’t think it was that pop friendly as a whole; it was way overproduced and miserable for that, but the singles off it were I suppose.

    I lost interest with CIS. A more pensive and mature sound, but where was the Feeder of old? And the last album was worse. A couple of good tunes, and the rest was horrible. But it sells. And now some of my friends have the album. These are the same type of people taking the piss out of me for liking Feeder back in 1996!

    I am embarassed to like Feeder also. I mention I like them, but also add, ‘but they’re a bit crap now’. I actually can’t stand Grant’s increasingly grating voice either. Only his impoverished student look is more disconcerting. I think he should have gone solo. Feeder were a pretty good band, but they lost their edge and have become just another pop rock act.

    Bring back the boiler suits (as worn in their Stereoworld single)!

  5. […] Remember my post about Feeder a couple of months ago? No? Anyway, I love Last.fm. I’ve just discovered that there is a tag called “real feeder“. Unfortunately only three songs are tagged with it so far — but I think it’s a funny idea. […]

  6. You think this is bad? I was into A1 during my GCSEs! Everyone else was into rawk and I was listening to boybands – I think that makes me a lower form of life…

  7. How is it embarrassing to like Feeder? I know a lot of people who like them, no matter what their age is. I don’t see how you can call a change in musical style, a decline in standards. Everyone has different tastes. Just because you no longer like them, doesn’t mean their any worse.

    And if you’d continued your research into their current B-sides and Singles album, you’ll find that’s where the heavier stuff lies that they are returning to. They put them there to see fans reaction before they continue with the rest of the stuff. And it’s doing very well (Shatter anyone? Got such good backing that it got released as a single).

    And don’t get me started on your “GCSE rawk”. You’re one of those people who obviously has to look cool, and can’t be seen liking bands that your friends think are rubbish. What’s wrong with liking Placebo, Muse or Feeder? Why must everyone over the age of 16 who likes them be embarrassed?

  8. ‘Shatter’ is an absolutely dire song, every bit as insipid as the rest of their recent output.

    As for that comment about trying to look cool in front of my friends — well you should see their reaction when they hear music that I like. They are the ones who still like Placebo and Muse. I’ll give those bands a wide berth thank you.

  9. As you think Feeder are so shite, i was just wandering what bands you think worthy, being as you describe thee bands you listen to as “sounding like a laptop being fed through a cheesegrater.” I am sure whoever they are would be really honoured to have you as a fan.

  10. i have to disagee here
    Feeder have one of the most hardcore fanbases of all the bands in the entire universe
    perhaps some of you guys prefer whatever the NME told you to like and thats cool with me but personally I’m not ashamed to say that i love Feeder I have 3 Feeder tatoos and I’m not a saddo, I just love that band Grant Nicholas’ lyrics touch my soul every time I here them. No shame here, or for the other thousands of Feeder fans around the world I expect

  11. its been a while since this is posted, but anyway

    what the hell is up with you? Feeder have one THE most devoted fanbases I know. Sure, I may be slightly biased as I have been a huge fan for ages now. In fact, they are my favourite band. okay, orrite. I’m 13. But I don’t thinkI’m cool cause i listen to feeder. I am in a school where you are expected to likerap. Rap’s crap. I will always remeber the first time i heard buck rogers. I didnt know who sang it. To me, it was great. It was differant and I liked it.

    Feeder actually care about their fans.

    Please, don’t insult them..

  12. Just because you dont like the direction that feeder have taken with their music doesnt mean that everyone who disagrees is wrong. Feeder have matured and so has their music can you imgine a band as succesful as feeder have been releasing a song like Buck Rodgers now? Feeder are still capable of writing some of the best rock tunes going. The singles collection shows why they have a big following no matter how old or what background people are from. If the ‘Full Ponty’ had been given more publicity you would have seen one of the best live performances that has ever been by any band!

  13. Firstly I have to agree with other posters…”GCSE Rawk”; ‘banal’ and ‘mediocre’ spring to mind. Not to mention ‘droll’. What were you thinking? Trying to start a fad for the sake of it I suspect.

    You’re of course entitled to your opinion but I don’t agree with it. I’ve been a fan of Feeder for 7 years now. I remember the first time i heard of them was in March 1999 when they played ‘Insomnia’ live on ITV’s ‘CD:UK’. Then I in the summer i got acquainted with ‘Yesterday Went Too Soon’ on TOTP and never looked back since.

    I too was the lone voice back in school, always banging on about Feeder where most people were like “Fee..who?!” I loved the lyrics, the songs, the style; they played the ultimate music and Grant Nicholas was the guy I wanted to be.

    The one thing that has always impressed me with Feeder is how with each album they always came out with a different sound. It wasn’t simply re-gurgitated pasteurised rubbish you get with some bands. They always played around with new stuff, not afraid of trying a new sound and really do good music. That’s one reason why they’ve been around for such a long time, they’ve managed to appeal to different music listeners.

    You can be cynical and say that Feeder progressively changed their sound only to appeal to the mainstream and be more commercially successful, at the expense of ‘art’. Although I think there’s more to it, sure who doesn’t want to be successful but I think it’s just Grant Nicholas and Feeder as a whole wanting to try new sounds and see where they go. Each of their diverse albums is proof of this. I will admit that I remember an interview in which Grant stated (sometime before Echo Park) something along the lines of “if we’re not successful with the next album, then we’re doing something wrong”. So yes a yearning to be successful and the fact they drafted in Gil Norton a big name producer to help produce ‘Echo Park’ would indicate a desire to make it big, in which they did of course. However I also remember Grant stating in another interview that he felt ‘Echo Park’ may have been “too poppy” as he put it, that doesn’t bother me as I love the album. If Feeder had sold out they would’ve just become monotonous automatons, which they definitely haven’t.

    Putting aside the tragic death of Jon Lee, I believe Feeder were going for a more mature sound anyway. As it’s stated that most of the songs for ‘Comfort In Sound’ had been written before Jon Lee’s death and also may have tied in with Grant Nicholas’ desire to get away from the pop sound of ‘Echo Park’ and go for something more grounded. It’s a great album nonetheless and it’s one of my favourite Feeder albums.

    I will say I like bands or singers because they play good music, not whether it’ll make me seem cool with the snobby ‘chic’ music crowd. There is a trend sometimes for people to only like bands when they’re ‘unknowns’. Then as soon as they make it big they ditch them because it’s simply not ‘cool’ to like a famous band. That notion to me seems utterly asinine.

    Enjoy your ‘Silky Coronets’ or whoever’s the ‘in thing’.

  14. Ah yes, the oldest trick in the book. “You only dislike them because they’re popular.” Yawn. Show me any instance where I said I disliked Feeder because they were popular? Nowhere. My post actually criticised Nicholas’ banal, often nonsensical lyrics and the utterly insipid nature of their latest music. Talk about a straw man.

  15. […] Mixing It was probably the only radio programme I would go out of my way to listen to. Ever since I was introduced to it six years ago by a good person on a messageboard about Feeder (of all bands), the programme has been the main source through which I discovered new bands. It’s been doing the same thing for many others since 1990. But that will all end tomorrow. […]

  16. To the writer: “To my shame, I’m reading your meaningless article”… OK, you can express your opinion but you should know that many would dissagree about the way you treat this amazing band. But from what I read you sound completely disrespectful and dogmatic. …”Sold out”… I’m hearing this expression for nearly every band that changes its sound for good. If you don’t like that then you should listen to a band that keeps doing the same songs in a slightly different way on all its albums. AND WTF??? Nicholas lyrics are amazing! You can’t critisise him from one line (“Forever will be, Tumble and fall”). Just stick to the music you like to hear… I’m sure it will be awful as the things you say. FEEDER ARE THE BEST