Pants on Fire
’ve got bad habits. On snowy days, I leave my car in the parking garage and take the bus home from work to browse through the winter-red faces that gather to escape the weather. I put my headphones on but leave the music off, an eavesdropper’s trompe l’oeil. What follows is a Technicolor buffet for the voyeur. The husky pack-a-dayer who fastens her eyes to her magazine for the entire trip. You get the sense she’s a copy-writer who can’t check the habit in her off-hours. The balloon-shaped misanthrope who grabs the first seat around the corner and holds to the pole like the bus might leave without her. Waiting for a train on tracks long left dead and still. God, she even has a cell phone; I would have guessed the voices in her head call her at home.
Eventually, I tire of this sport. The people around me pile up into one dripping mass; the faces begin to hollow out and merge. I lose track of them, and I forget the fun of a moment ago. Get me home and let’s have done with it all. Fortunately, the next time I ride the bus, I’ll have the soundtrack to match. The self-titled debut album by Feed (not to be confused with the Japanese band of the same name) almost congeals into one seamless track under the tedium of its pacing and its lack of singularity. Moments that initially captivate turn sour upon understanding they are followed by more of the same driving guitar rock.
The album shoots straight for the gut, with few idiosyncrasies and sparse moments of recession. This contributes to its dental-chair anesthesia quality, leaving you too numb at the point of contact to feel it, but conscious enough to hear it. With their masses of striking guitars, their popping monolithic drums, and a local-bar-darling facelessness to their sound that cuts too close to too many bands to identify, Feed tries to dummy-sock you over the head and make off with your allegiance before you figure out what’s in their record collection.
This rehashing of influences is the album’s central deadfall. I suppose you could credit them for not attempting a sleight-of-hand deception, as on “I Love You My Dear and How,” lead singer Adam Perry bares his affection for aging indie icons while singing “no Westerberg or Costello just one thing that I want you to know.” Ah, much the better; a self-confirmed litany of legends. More importantly, we’ve learned the one thing we need to know. With that reminder, flashing choruses are defaced by the remembrance of albums past. Guitar lines shuffle through your memory and seem to lock into step with those on the stereo. You know the twists before they come, and you keep one step ahead of the album. The absence of guile lulls you into a state of uncomfortable familiarity, a closeness and foreknown comprehension that negates the static-electric kick of the album’s best melodies (“Shake Like It’s Winter,” “She”).
Listening to Feed becomes an audio-visual stroll through a fictitious indie wax museum. Ah, so that is Paul Westerberg back there (“Ginger-Haired Girl”)! Why’d they shove him back by the exit with Bob Mould? Look at Elvis Costello’s glasses (“Rabbit”)! They look plastic. Is that allowed? It seems like cheating. Who knocked Rivers Cuomo over (“Hell to Pay”)? More importantly, how come nobody’s picked him up? Why is Stephen Malkmus smirking at me? Is this like being a child and looking out the window of your car, convinced the moon is following you? Clearly, Feed have walked this amusement-park mile and acknowledged these faces, but the desire to become one on their own merits is unclear. Yes, we too have heard the Replacements and Elvis Costello. Hopefully on their next album, Feed will disfigure their store-picked sound enough to offer more than ringing endorsements of the past.