, April 18th, 2017 02:37
It’s common knowledge that some of music’s greatest stories are short ones. Fitting, then, that Feature’s debut album is something of an epitaph for the band: the trio disbanded before it was even released, but their fleeting trajectory serves Banishing Ritual rather well.
An advantage of releasing just one album and stopping altogether is that there’s less pressure to make an impression or heighten interest. The more casual approach that Feature employ here works in their favour: without an agenda, there’s more room for artistic freedom, and we all know that it’s more possible to flaunt your full potential when there are fewer constraints.
Fortunately, Banishing Ritual is the sound of a band with no intention of pleasing anyone but themselves, resulting in ten tracks full of conviction and unrestrained emotion. Indeed, Feature’s brand of primitive, energetic punk is as pervasive as it is hard to get wrong, but the less effusive or try-hard it is the more powerful it can be.
Thanks to Feature’s deceiving indifference, Banishing Ritual sounds like that house show you discovered last minute on a weekday, which ends up being one of the best gigs you’ve ever been to. It’s difficult to convey the chaos of a live environment on record, but opener ‘Psalms’ does a good job of trying: the hurried discord contrasts brilliantly with the soft nonchalance of their harmonies, but it remains lyrically defiant, culminating in a sound that’s all over the place, blurring the lines between soft and sharp. This puts us on familiar ground when listening to the rest of the record: Feature’s ability to evoke the purest, most visceral form of punk is an innate quality that comes naturally to the band.
It shouldn’t be of note that Feature are a group of all women – imagine someone writing about The Fall, for example, with the focal point being on gender; similarly, imaging anyone describing Mark E Smith as a “sassy singer-songwriter” to denote his famed doggedness. It would just never happen. But while other punk-orientated bands rely heavily on the rock ‘n’ roll anachronism of macho posturing to signify strength and indignation, Banishing Ritual is unashamedly female, in that it’s uncompromising and unafraid to confront women’s issues in a way that’s playful: see the short-and-snappy ‘Jealous’ which depicts jealously using tongue-in-cheek insincerity. Elsewhere, Jen Calleja’s spoken word verses on ‘Gatekeeper’ subtly recall the more leisurely introspection of Sauna Youth’s ‘Taking A Walk’, albeit with more aggression.
It’s Banishing Ritual’s simplicity that gives it resilience. Feature’s melodic impulse and tenacity for blending beauty with brutality is comparable to what makes the likes of, say, The Shop Assistants’ debut LP so enduring. Look no further than album pinnacle ‘Reeling’ for conviction: while music snobs often deride the pop song as non-art, throwaway and unimaginative, with the notion of the ‘perfect’ pop song being an ultimately doomed ambition. Here, though, Feature get tantalisingly close.
The closing instrumental ‘Feature Theme’ is an appropriate denouement – moody and contemplative – and defies the usual notion of punk rock being devoid of nuance. Part of the appeal of Feature is that they’ve understood what they’re best at, honed their craft, and delivered a career defining set of songs in one album. It’s a shame that this is the last thing we’ll hear from Feature, but with an album as consistently good as this, they won’t be forgotten any time soon.