If you think of the great Brit pop bands of the 90s, for many people, Feeder would be high on the list. They might not have been one of the biggest, but my god they knew how to write a catchy tune. Ballad or rock, they were excellent at both, and managed to outlast many of the other 90s bands who were quickly resigned to the indie graveyard by the time the decade was over.
Now it’s 2014 and Feeder lead singer and guitarist Grant Nicholas has decided to try his first solo effort with Yorktown Heights. It’s always a brave decision to go it alone after being in a band for so long; the main reason being is there’s nowhere to hide. It’s not a band of brothers supporting each other anymore, and with Grant also taking producing duties for the record, he’s really piled the pressure on to perform.
Album opener Soul Mates allows Grant to throw off his Feeder shackles by going all acoustic and stripped back. Yes, his former band did release lots of slower material, but nothing in this vein; the gentle sweet acoustic guitar melds effortlessly with Grants dual vocals creating a happy place where the singer seems content: ‘Close your eyes and feel at peace, for a moment free’.
But this chipper disposition doesn’t last long. Track Hitori, is more upbeat musically, but contrasts this with lyrics of a melancholy disposition: ‘sorrow will find me wherever I go, it preys on lonely hearts’ sings Grant in sombre tones. Joan of Arc features a nice build up into something different and really shows off how well the singer’s vocals work with guitars in the background, and almost sounds like something Gary Barlow could have come up with – unexpected but actually works really well.
There is a slight lull mid-album with Good Fortune Lies Ahead feeling a little forced, and the sound getting slightly monotonous; this could have been sorted out with a little more variety, but it’s hard to tread that line between too much and too little, and the former Feeder man can be forgiven for airing on the side of caution with this being his first solo effort.
Feeder fans will rejoice in the moments that the album touches on the bands unmistakable sound. Robots is one of these tracks, providing thumping drums and a sullen Grant reminiscent of how he used to sing in the 90s. Its robotic beat is cleverly mixed with unvarying vocals which gradually grow throughout the song to show a more human side by the end. And if you’re looking for a decent ballad, look no further than Isolation, it will remind you of what a great songwriter Grant actually is.
Yorktown Heights ends up being a very introvert and self reflecting record, even more so than in the singer’s Feeder days. His emotions seem all over the place here, and it’s probably a mix of being that bit older with time to reflect, accompanied by the new experience of flying solo. It ends up being a decent effort with glimpses of the past, the present, and areas where the singer can go in the future. Yorktown Heights shows Grant hasn’t let ‘old father time’ erode his song writing ability and it’s a first solo effort he can be proud of.