‘I’m pretty sure they’ll suck!’ Oh, buddy, you and I and everyone that night were so wrong. That’s something that one guy and many others (including this writer) have said before any show. The poor artist or band that supports and opens for a bigger act is always fresh meat for the fans, especially if it’s a foreign act bringing another smaller lesser known one along. The big band that night in Guadalajara was Kings of Leon, the opening act: The Features.
It took Roger, Matt, Mark and Rollum just two songs to win over the audience. That was the first time many of us had seen an opening and unknown band being cheered at at such levels. And just when nothing special could come again, out of nowhere, the band began to play Thursday and the entire auditorium sang along the chorus, the chorus of an unknown song from an unknown band, that is the magic of The Features.
Becoming an instant fan ever since, and buying a blue lion t-shirt and the Some Kind Of Salvation album, this author then followed Kings Of Leon and The Features through their three date tour around the country. Luck struck again last year, as I found a now dear friend of mine, Collin Breaux, asking for directions backstage at the Voodoo Experience festival in New Orleans. He wanted to find the press tent, since he was scheduled to interview The Features that day. I obviously asked for permission to stay and that’s when I finally met the band. Some chatting, two signed LP’s, an hour long set by them, a few photos and news about their new album in the making, The Features was finally released this week.
The album opens up and plays on with a similar style to 2008’s Some Kind Of Salvation: although the songs can be individually heard, most of them are actually interconnected and give a special feel throughout as you hear it for the first time. The first track, Rotten, opens the album slow paced, hinting at what’s to come: a rollercoaster of ballads, head banging inducer soft rock and (more than in any of their last albums) dancing.
The Features’ With Every Beat
The second track, Tenderly, reminds one of the more guitar driven sound the band had in songs like The Way It’s Meant To Be and Lions, with Matt Pelham’s accurate guitar strums supported by Roger Dabbs thunderous bass lines and Rollum Haas wild yet accurate drumming. A good sign is the bigger enrollment Mark Bond gets in this LP, especially noticed in the third track, This Disorder, a feet-shuffling ear drug chosen as the first single, in which Bond’s synth are the icing on the cake after each chorus.
Rock makes a comeback with Won’t Be Long, a love song disguised as a riff driven anthem with some of Haas’ best drum beating throughout the record. Almost halfway through, Fox On The Run calms the deal down before getting to the funky part of the album. Then, a jewel emerges shaped as With Every Beat, a song that mixes the best The Features have come up with in their latest albums: not quite rock, not quite a ballad, not quite hard, no quite quiet, not quite guitar, synth, bass or drum driven. With Every Beat is just a perfect bit of everything the band had spiced with their previous work crafted into a few minutes of pure joy that sums of the best of an almost two decade old band.
The Features’ This Disorder
As we could travel three decades in the past, Ain’t No Wonder and The New Romantic sound like an ode to the 80’s (and maybe, just maybe, The Ghostbusters films) with upbeat dancing tempos and wacky synth riffs wrapped in funky guitar and bass work. It is always nice to hear an experiment like this go right and notice a band that likes to have fun in the studio and is able to put its own personal touch to such a controversial style and era in music (The Strokes, take note).
With a Joy Division noticeable inspiration, In Your Arms echoed vocals remind a lot of Ian Curtis and his love driven songs. The synthesizer fills do nothing to hide this as they act as a perfect rhythm support to the illusion of a Joy Division tribute. The only mistake was to not make this track longer. One thing about The Features music is the power of their little ballads (such as The Gates Of Hell), where a lot can be felt through the way Pelham wails about forgiveness and doubt in Regarding PG. It’s funny how a cowbell (more cowbell!) and a Thurston Moore-ish guitar experiment give it a special touch at the end.
The album ends with a fun one, Phase Too, with the whole band singing along as Pelham shouts out while letting the microphone on as the instruments are no longer played and are left behind.
This self-titled fourth LP might mean something. With a colorful cover after a black and white one in their last heavier driven album (Wilderness) and a slightly blue colored cover on their previous softer effort (Some Kind Of Salvation, one of this writer’s all-time favorite albums), The Features could mean a final embrace of the band’s softer and heavier spectrum. This nameless album might hint at a now perfect balance found after years touring the world and recording music.
The Features by The Features has something for every mood. Feeling sad? Listen to Rotten. Feel like dancing? Turn This Disorder all the fucking way up. Feel like head banging? Bring a neck brace before you listen to Won’t Be Long. Feel like having a good soundtrack for your bipolar moments? Just get this damn album (and maybe some psychological help too).
Written by Jorge A. López Mendicuti
OurVinyl | Senior Writer