Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Features offer flawless mix of garage rock and southern groove

All this time we've had a great rock band in our own backyard, and most people never noticed.

The Features, who hail from Sparta, Tennessee, have been touring the local circuits around Nashville for well over 10 years, but haven't really seemed to get their due. Mixing the garage rock sound of The Strokes and White Stripes with the southern fried groove of Kings of Leon, the band was able to sign a deal with the Serpents & Snakes record label, run by -- who else? -- the Kings of Leon themselves.

In July, The Features released their latest full length, Wilderness. It boasts a straight ahead driving rock sound, but Matt Pelham's vocals is where it begins and ends. His voice can go from a mellow croon to a raucous rowdy howl.

Heavy rockers like "Kids" and "Rambo" should delight, but the greasy southern rock formula hits it peak with "Big Momma's Gonna Whip Us Good," a grooving rhythm based track that sees Pelham urgently arguing for greater environmental awareness.

And The Features look to sweep your girl off her feet with "How It Starts," which could very well be the band's answer to Marvin Gaye's "Let's Get It On."

The boys also show us they're capable of solid songwriting, with lyrics that are sometimes humorous and always clever. "Kids" tells the story of a man who drove his parents nuts when he was young only to endure the ordeal from the other side of the coin when he has kids of his own.

"Golden Comb," accented by its rumbling bassline, describes a snooty, high maintenance woman who Pelham can't seem to please no matter what he does, while "Fats Domino" is an 50s style doo-wap ballad dedicated to the joys of old time rock and roll. It feels like a modern take on Chuck Berry's "Rock and Roll Music."

There' s also some clever little accents built in to inject a particular mood into the music. The lead in riff and guitar solo on "Chapter III" give off a wacky carnival vibe, while the intro to "Rambo" has a very slight hint of a Quentin Tarantino/Pulp Fiction" type vibe.

Wilderness doesn't break much new ground, but it is a fun carefree rock record that's great for kicking off your shoes, stomping your foot, and letting loose. Pound for pound, you'll have a hard time finding an album this year that does a better job of pulling off that vibe.

Score: 81/100

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