In the face of either starting a family or losing a major label deal, many respectable musicians have hung up their hats. Despite settling down, The Features have continued to turn in some of their best work since parting ways with Universal in 2005; besides generating licensing revenue from national ads, Some Kind of Salvation and The Wilderness have spawned many crowd favorites among the group's devoted fans.
Since the days of "Armani Suede," the opening track on The Features' self-titled first EP, part of the band's genius has been their skill at merging fist-pumping rock and dancefloor-friendly beats. Though The Features — a self-titled full-length out May 14 via Kings of Leon's Serpents and Snakes Records — slightly favors the dance side, every song rests on a solid rock foundation.
Perhaps the most arresting example is "Ain't No Wonder," whose hollow gang vocals and squiggly synth lines evoke Depeche Mode and Bernie Worrell from the downbeat. Set these trappings aside, and it's still a classic Features tune, its lilting chorus a whisper of a bygone South, capped by a frustrated wail from singer Matt Pelham. "Won't Be Long," in which angels tell the narrator that true love will deliver him from evil, rocks as hard as anything in The Features' catalog. Our mishearing of the lyric "stick a halo on my head" as "stick a hammer in my hand" is as much a product of the context as our own battered eardrums.
Pelham's songs have consistently reflected his progression into new stages of life, and this record proves him capable of rocking out in regard to what is the very antithesis of rock 'n' roll: parenting a tween. The album's lead single, "This Disorder," addresses the sedentary lifestyle encouraged by modern conveniences, a particular concern to contemporary parents; a funky beat compels all listeners, regardless of age, to put down that LCD-equipped device and "do what comes naturally."
The Features' one specific meditation on parenthood, "Regarding PG," is an insistent groover with a New Orleans clave-inspired rhythm underneath, disturbed mid-flow by a solo that positively screams "Ugh, Dad, why are adults so dumb?" In a sly application of his mature songcraft, Pelham holds back the last line of the closing chorus, tacitly acknowledging that the kiddo has probably stopped listening by now — why bother?
The underlying argument — that growing up is not as lame as it may sound — is easy to get behind for those who have been through it. The Features' major accomplishment is delivering that message in a foot-stomping, tail-shaking package destined to appeal to youngsters of all ages.
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