Dedicated is probably the most succinct and accurate way to describe Tennessee rockers, The Features. It's not an exciting endorsement, and it's not a bad one either, but after three full studio releases (and another two more homegrown efforts) it's certainly an accurate one.
Signing for The Kings of Leon's record label Serpents & Snakes served to crystalize the numerous comparisons to their Southern-belt rock contemporaries. Wilderness seems to have done this too, but that's unfair; The Features are a smarter, more interesting band than The Kings of Leon. They haven't become dance-floor regulars, wowed the masses and made millions of dollars, but they haven't blurted out "My sex is on fire" thousands of times either, and I salute them for that.
After years of what can only be described as churning, The Features refuse to write something that means nothing. Clear lovers of rock 'n roll, there is the abundant feeling of fun protruding from their music. And that's what music's about, isn't it? Fun. Exhibit A was fun, and Wilderness, whilst not as melodically chirpy as its predecessor, is, essentially, fun. It billows in and out of pertinent matters like global warming and government corruption, and sways into more human, abstract notions of love without taking itself seriously at all.
Three songs into the album comes Another One, and never has a song been so apt. Like the proverbial dog bearing physical similarities to its owner, this song says everything you need to know about The Features. "Tell me what you want to hear. Does it really matter, dear? Change my ways to suit your rules. That don't seem to comfort you." Perhaps the lyrics of this song should replace every review ever written about The Features, as they consider to ponder these questions on a wider scale.
A brief moment indulgent self-reflection aside, this album had plenty to offer. Clever, thrashing guitars thread alongside circus-like organs whilst a twinkling piano punctuates proceedings in one of the more noteworthy tracks, Big Mama Gonna Whip Us Good: a song that addresses myriad concerns with a playful cadence and impressive candor.
Wilderness is like an update patch for a piece of software; it basically does the same thing as before, but offers a higher level of compatibility for 2012. Of course, you can always roll back to a previous version, and you'll barely notice the difference, but it's certainly worth the upgrade. Of course, The Features aren't going to be headlining any major festivals soon, but the meticulous construction of their tight rock songs in Wilderness, and their effervescent execution is worthy of your respect, if not your full attention.
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