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Grant Nicholas – Black Clouds

  • Written by  David Lownds

Powerful anthems with great lyrics helped to cement Feeder’s status as a brilliant indie rock band with a habit of unleashing killer singles. Perhaps surprisingly, those aforementioned vital components of the band’s catalogue are absent from this solo mini-album by Feeder’s lead singer and guitarist, Grant Nicholas. While as a wordsmith he exhibits some artistic skill here, these lyrics are less powerful than the directness of some of his material found elsewhere.

Furthermore, this release (a companion piece to his Yorktown Heights album) is deficient in muscle and fire. A combination of both acoustic and beefier material is part of what made such albums as Yesterday Went Too Soon, Feeder’s second full-length, so great, as well as some excellent words to match their simple but effective musical foundation. There are additional negatives as well. ‘Better Days To Come’ and ‘Everyday Society’ are quite unremarkable except for one of the vocal refrains on the former track, which is infectious but irritating, and the strange opening riff of the latter song.

However, it is not all bad. ‘Black Clouds’, an acoustic song complete with hip-hop style drums, is reminiscent of ‘Piece By Piece’ from Feeder’s Echo Park and Portishead’s remix of ‘Wildwood’ by Paul Weller. The title track is one of the disc’s stand out songs, as is ‘After The Fall’. Both of this record’s bookends are catchy despite not being especially commercial. The guitar line of ‘After The Fall’ has a certain bounce to it.

‘Reminisce’ is a pleasant, arguably Bob Dylan-esque song. It features a harmonica solo and is adorned by beautiful, fast guitar picking, as Nicholas speaks of revisiting his childhood. It is, in terms of mood, the sunshine to the rain of ‘Joan Of Arc’. The latter piece of music generates a feeling not dissimilar to looking at “pouring” rain, something that Nicholas sings about in the lyrics, but, although the composition is dark, it grows more appealing after repeated listens. Some neat touches - such as the synth-like sounds on ‘Joan Of Arc’, the harmonica on ‘Reminisce’, and the shimmering backing vocals and background effects of ‘After The Fall’ - enhance this release.

Overall, these half dozen tracks make up a rather competent effort featuring both interesting and great elements. However, its terrain is a bit too flat, not featuring enough surprises or amazing heights; and yet it is also, in a different way, too uneven: the collection is inconsistent. Black Clouds is quite good, but Feeder’s 2007 compilation The Singles is far superior.

Black Clouds is available from amazon & iTunes.

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