I’m a huge fan of electronic music—I’ve already proven this many times. In particular, the sound of 80s synth pop has always been important to me, but there was also a time when indie rock ruled my heart. Back in 2003, a single by British trio Feeder called “Just the Way I’m Feeling” sealed the deal.
When I was in junior high, my parents saw pop music as a distraction from homework and tried to limit my exposure to this kind of art. At that time, my musical education consisted only of the tunes I learned in summertime at the discos, from my friends, and sometimes from TV. Thus I’ve been caught between the extremes of nu metal and nu italo. But when my parents were away, I started to listen to the radio and began to appreciate more mature music. In retrospect, they probably wouldn’t have minded, as I was already fifteen, but I was too shy to ask.
In the summer of 2002 I visited the Netherlands on a soccer trip. On the way back, we stopped at a shopping mall, and while we were there I heard song for the first time that got me hooked. It was “Stop Cryin’ Your Heart Out,” a limpy ballad that brought Oasis to the number 2 spot on the UK charts, purely due to the name recognition. At first I was intrigued by its similarity to Lenny Kravitz’s “Stillness of Heart” but I quickly felt that it was romantic in a nice way. At the time, the song was important to me because it showed me there was something more to pop and rock than radio darlings like U2 and Celine Dion.
My quest to find more bands like Oasis continued well into the first year of high school. I was far away from home and busy with my school work but I often talked about music with my friends. As a village boy in a big city I thought I should have stood apart from my peers somehow. Thanks to British press like Q (sold in a Polish equivalent of Virgin Megastore) I became interested in indie rock. This interest was rather shallow because I had no money to buy records and no computer in to download any tracks.
At that time, Polish radio was rather heavily oriented toward Top 40. One of the most notable exceptions to this rule was an indie rock show by Adam Czajkowski on local Radio Plus. Czajkowski was the owner of the biggest record collection in northern Poland and a popular club DJ. I listened to his show regularly, partly because it gave me something to talk about with my best friend Julian. Czajkowski played music by bands I thought were too depressing, like The Flaming Lips or Interpol. After few months I started to wonder whether this whole indie thing was really for me. When I was ready to embrace my poppy inclinations, which my school pals saw as uncool, Feeder entered the stage.
Fall and Rise
The band Feeder formed in Welsh town called Newport in 1994. The founding members were: vocalist and guitarist Grant Nicholas, drummer Jon Lee, and bassist Taka Hirose. Their big break was their 2001 album Echo Park and the single “Buck Rogers.” Unfortunately, one year later Lee committed suicide. He was replaced by Mark Richardson, who had previously played in Skunk Anansie (and after 2009 reunion of that band).
Welsh people are often considered to be more open to grunge and various kinds of metal than the rest of Brits. Early Feeder also sounded more like Foo Fighters than Blur. “Come Back Around”, the first single from 2002 album Comfort in Sound, could also be mistaken for American modern rock. As far as I remember, Czajkowski was no fan of Foo Fighters, so how did this song make it to his program?
The first half of the answer is: it was the part of UK Charts analysis segment. Being a teenage dirtbag, I liked how Czajkowski was ripping apart the X Factor alumni and pop-punk like Good Charlotte. Every segment ended with a Top 20 song that the DJ actually liked. That particular day, the song happened to be “Just The Way I’m Feeling,” but Czajkowski had also few kind words for Avril Lavigne, Robbie Williams, and even P!nk (“Family Portrait” to be exact). The other half of the answer is: “Just The Way I’m Feeling” was a musical detour for Feeder (or at least it appeared that way at the time).
The Angsty Face of Comfort
No wonder the only existing RYM user review accuses the band of ripping off Oasis, and if you consider how many bands Oasis has ripped off, it’s a pretty sick burn. Grant Nicholas said that he had The Beatles in mind while writing the song, which also seems something what Oasis would do. But most important is that he had Jon Lee in mind. The album Comfort in Sound was meant to be a tribute to the drummer and “Just The Way I’m Feeling” surely proves it.
As singles from the rock commercial powerhouses should be, this one is more radio friendly than “Come Back Around”. The nervous guitar riff captured me from the very start. Nicholas’s vocals sound alert on the verses but sweetly soothing on the bridge. The string arrangement sounds more prominent with every second until we get to the chorus. This part of the song stands apart because of a certain sound effect. It resembles a scream, but it’s more a scream of ecstasy than pain. The lyrics are a plea for someone to help the singer to get through the hard times, symbolized by “bleeding” and being “torn in two.” When I listened to the song for the first time, I didn’t know the backstory (or English that well, to be honest) so I interpreted it as an universal lament of the heartbroken lover. Maybe I wasn’t the only one.
Between the Populists and Snobs
I don’t want to argue that “Just the Way I’m Feeling” is a masterpiece. I’m just happy I heard it in the right place at the right time. My high school was far from home and I felt pretty alienated among my new friends. Not long after, some of them even became my enemies. But you know what this part of life is like most of the time. It’s the time when you walk around a lake for half hour wondering whether the lunch lady said “You’re funny” and really meant “You’re pathetic.” When you’re hitting such lows, elegiac songs like “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots” rarely help. Feeder showed me that indie rock can sound bright and full of hope, even while tackling heavy topics.
The fact that this minor epiphany happened to me after midnight made it even more memorable. The opening guitar riff sounded like a crash of thunder against the black sky. I wanted more and I felt it must have been just around the corner. The cancellation of Czajkowski’s show in the spring of 2003 was a blow to me, but I soon discovered that Feeder was onto something with their change of sound. With their next album, Pushing the Senses, Feeder joined the other bands like Embrace and Athlete, emulating the sound of Coldplay’s A Rush of Blood to the Head. This anthemic brand of pop rock was my go to-sound at that time, especially Keane.
Mellowing with Age
When Feeder released their 2006 single, “Feeling a Moment,” they gained a little exposure in Poland, but with the advent of private-owned rock radio stations, they became a sort of household name. In 2011, they returned to rocking out but without entirely losing their pop sheen. Good examples of that direction were the songs “Renegades” and “Borders.” Now, they can a score a Top 10 song on the British album charts, but they make little impact elsewhere. With three platinum records and two “Kerrang!” awards under their belt, they probably don’t need to reinvent themselves for an umpteenth time.
“Pure” rock music isn’t my primary concern anymore. That’s not Feeder’s fault. In my 20s I was listening to many kinds of guitar bands, from Duran Duran to Pink Floyd to Whitesnake. In 2010, I decided to venture further into Polish progressive rock and metal. After listening to a few albums in a row, I had had enough, and all the guitar-based music suffered the consequences. But in the end, I will always be grateful that this Welsh band showed me a friendly face of music outside of mainstream radio and gave me a lot of joy during hard times.