I like the idea of bands like Jet and The Hives, it’s just the music that gets in the way. Good old-fashioned rock `n’ roll and power-pop are two styles that will always have a place in music. No one ever gets tired of a good pop song or a powerful, catchy rocker. We will always need them. But for some reason, many of the bands trying their hands at keeping the tradition alive are failing miserably.
But wait, before you give up, there’s a band you really oughta hear called The Features. Hailing from Sparta, Tennessee, the fiery power-pop combo revs through a dozen songs on their debut Exhibit A in just over thirty minutes. This is no-nonsense pop music with added muscle, sounding something like The Pixies covering The Jam. Vocalist Matt Pelham’s wail constantly sounds as if his voice is ready to go out, which makes it all the more intense. While Matthew Sweet and Fountains of Wayne have a similar songwriting style to The Features, this southern foursome takes it to the next plateau, tightening it and turning it up. Way up.
“Exhibit A” and “That’s the Way It’s Meant to Be” begin the album with a B-12 shot of distortion and hooks, two blink-and-you’ll-miss-them rockers that grab the listener, smacks him in the face and bolts before he can do anything about it. They’re just that exciting. “Me & the Skirts” and “Demons” both insert a bit of country and surf into the mix, only altering their style slightly to add stylistic flourishes while retaining their hyper-amplified heft.
Though each song on the album could be released as a single, the two catchiest ( a relative term, mind you) tracks are “Blow It Out” and “The Idea of Growing Old.” The former is a power pop tune in the vein of Weezer, albeit with more rip-roarin’ intensity than Rivers Cuomo ever conjured. And the latter is a sweet power ballad (again, a relative term) that’s more Beatlesque than the rest of the album. It’s a stunning track that sees Pelham easing up on the shouting temporarily, though the track still rocks harder than most of the rock `n’ roll impostors polluting the airwaves.
Between the swirling organs, chunky guitars, metronomic drums and Pelham’s ferocious delivery, The Features are a thunderous group of rockers that know how to make catchy rock music that really wails. Groups like Kings of Leon and The Datsuns could learn a thing or two from The Features. They make perfect pop sound so easy, it’s a shame that no one else seems to have figured out their secret.
The Libertines – The Libertines
The Pixies – Doolittle
Sloan – One Chord to Another
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.