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Music Review

The Feeling: 'Join With Us'

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The Feeling: 'Join With Us'
Released on Monday, Feb 18 2008

Honestly, there's no helping some people. The Feeling have recently confirmed an appearance on Guilty Pleasures, a Saturday night special on which "eight top musical acts" will perform songs that are "ever so slightly shameful to love" for the ITV1 audience (and Fearne Cotton). Their selection? 'Video Killed The Radio Star' by The Buggles. Instead of confronting the indie sneer that greeted Twelve Stops And Home, their defiantly unfashionable debut album, the Sussex five-piece seem to be pouring ink into the quills of their critics.

But, then again, nothing about The Feeling is supposed to be cool. Join With Us betrays the same perennially popular - but quintessentially naff - influences as its predecessor, with nods to ELO, 10cc and Queen coming in the first four songs. The dance-rock swagger of lead single 'I Thought It Was Over' is deceptive, for elsewhere Join With Us is essentially a more expensive, slightly softer version of Twelve Stops And Home. 'Without You' and 'This Time' benefit from some gorgeous orchestral arrangements, and those faintly ridiculous harmonies are a little more prevalent this time around, but nothing here rocks as bracingly as 'Helicopter', the toughest track from their debut.

Like Twelve Stops, whose hook-laden, catchy-as-flypaper tunes helped The Feeling to become the most played act on British radio in 2006, Join With Us is an embarrassment of potential hit singles. 'Turn It Up', a Queen-style romp propelled by gleeful harmonies, will sound fantastic over the airwaves, as will 'Without You', a woozy, string-laden ballad with a melody you feel you've known forever. Best of all is the melodramatic, lavishly-arranged 'This Time', which conjures up images of The Carpenters settling down to record a big, blousy power ballad after a few too many white wine spritzers.

However, thanks to Dan Gillespie Sells, the band's lead singer and lyricist, Join With Us never slips into mere pastiche. An almost painfully English fellow - "They're boring the hell out of me!" he exclaims at one point - his songs are filled with loneliness ('Without You', 'Loneliness'), insecurity ('Connor', 'Spare Me') and an unfaltering belief in the power of love ('The Greatest Show On Earth'). Though his yearning vocals are sometimes a little too cute, his honest, direct lyrics are the band's trump card, ensuring that Join With Us is blessed with heart as well as hooks. Who else could turn the muscle-flexing balladry of 'Spare Me' into something so anxious and doubt-ridden?

Just occasionally, The Feeling's taste for the absurd is too much to stomach. 'Won't Go Away' is an unholy marriage of David Bowie's 'Modern Love' and Katrina & The Waves' 'Walking On Sunshine', while the "ring ring beep beep" hook in 'Join With Us' is as far from sexy as pop music gets in 2008. Still, these are minor quibbles. So confident and well-realised is this sophomore album, in fact, that it seems to pose a challenge to the naysayers: Join With Us?

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