When Features' singer and main songwriter Matt Pelham laments "the things we wish we'd done, when we were young" on "The Temporary Blues" it's hard to resist the temptation to crack wise. The boy can't be 30 yet, and even though his band lost their major-label deal just before they were about to start recording their second album, it's hard to imagine that he's got too many things to complain about. On the up side, Pelham's lyrics are so clever, his melodies so strong, and his guitar playing so aggressive, it's hard to hold a grudge. This Nashville-based foursome -- the other members are Roger Dabbs on bass, Mark Bond on keyboards, and drummer Rollum Haas -- lays down a solid, danceable brand of new wave rock with intelligent lyrics and plenty of verve. The album's out on their own label and was produced by the band with the help of Jacquire King (Tom Waits, Modest Mouse) and their longtime friend Brian Carter. The opening keyboard riff of "Whatever Gets You By," the opening track, immediately lifts your spirits. The wordless chorus has the boozy feel of a Russian folk song, think "Those Were the Days My Friend," and segues neatly into "The Drawing Board" a horn-driven complaint about life's uncertainties with a stomping Eastern European gypsy beat. Pelham's flexible tenor has just the right trace of ironic humor to lift the tune out of the ordinary. "GMF" has an ominous feel despite the band's sparkling pop harmonies. Genetically modified food is the subject, and the protest is delivered with plenty of wit and energy and a big, distorted, hard rock sound. The aforementioned "The Temporary Blues" tells of the torment of working a dead-end job on an assembly line. It's an anthemic tune with a rousing chorus and a killer melody that contains a cheeky quote from the New Testament in the chorus. "Wooden Heart" is a tough new wave-meets-Motown rave-up, "Lions" takes off on another exuberant wordless vocal hook to deliver a bright, sparking love song, while "Still Lost" builds quickly to a huge climax with Bond's piano and synthesizer driving the tune over the top. Pelham's even more effective on the ballads. Acoustic guitar and train whistle keys introduce "Baby's Hammer." Pelham's shimmering vocals and Bond's piano give the track an airy, romantic feel. "Concrete" rides a percolating beat with Dabbs adding a disco bassline to the amusing lyric of a man struggling with indecision. The Features don't sound as dated as some groups digging into the early '80s for inspiration. They use the new wave sound as a launching pad for the punchy three-minute pop gems that they deliver here.
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AllMusic Review by j. poet