There are artists who approach their first long-player cautiously and others who like to go in all guns blazing, and even on the very first listen it quickly becomes apparent that FEET are definitely part of the latter group. The Coventry band’s debut album, What’s Inside Is More Than Just Ham, more than keeps the promise made in its title: throughout its ten tracks there’s a lot to bite on. With a lot of different sounds put together to form a whole that may not always feel fully cohesive, but is certainly always taking the more challenging path, the record belongs to the sort that deserves a second listen, and then a third – and there’s inevitably still some detail that will only become apparent with every following round of revisiting.
In this sense, it’s a stratified work, showing a lot of attention in the production process, with a pointed research of sound oddities that makes it both lively and intriguing. There is a particular care in the backing vocals, which stand out in pretty much every song of the album; some pretty inventive drum sections come through especially in the second half of the record, and there’s a pleasantly varied range of guitar work, most incisive when the sound gets a bit dirtier, but accommodating the many changes of pace and mood with grace.
Among the many details to be noticed in this debut, there are a number of potential influences, or perhaps references; tracks like ‘Dogwalking‘ bring to mind the old glories of Echo and the Bunnymen, and opener ‘Good Richard’s Crash Landing‘ – one of the more experimental tracks on the record, whose apparent complete lack of structure really belies a search for a different kind of structure altogether – starts mellow, in a way reminiscent of early Oasis, only to be immediately infiltrated by distortion and devolve into refreshing madness. This track might be regarded as somewhat programmatic, almost a warning about what is to come, with its many changes of tone and tempo, vocals ranging from quasi-falsetto to almost-spoken, and the occasional touch of sounds that nod to the greats of British music history (Bowie and the Beatles come prominently to mind). Other tracks indulge in a bit of a retro mood, and both the slippery bop of ‘Ad Blue‘ and the psychy glam of ‘Axe Man‘ (easily my favourite track) would not have been entirely out of place in the later years of the Seventies. ‘Petty Thieving‘ has a pretty punk title and a dirtier guitar with rougher vocals to match it. ‘Chalet 47‘ even incorporates a bit of something that is almost swing.
There are some songs with serious earworm potential in there, too; single ‘English Weather‘ feels spot-on for the season and has a nice, easy pace that you might find yourself dancing to, while ‘Outer Rim‘ packs a positively infectious riff and some serious hard lifting from the rhythm section. With very well-rounded vocals that make it easy to sing along, some of these tracks are likely to stick around for a while after listening to them.
In many ways, the title track – surprisingly trippy for a song that is technically about hot dogs – sums up the record perfectly: there’s a bit of everything in it and somehow it still holds together in a way that one would not have expected, but which works surprisingly well. The song is clearly relishing its run-through of different genres; there is even a heavy metal-like bit with some committed guitar playing. The feeling that the band is just having fun and enjoying what they’re doing comes through the strongest here, but is pervasive throughout the record and is one of its greatest strengths; at the same time, the more experimental tracks still feel like they need to grow into their own some more, and the album can come across less as a complete whole than as a compilation of very intriguing individual entities. Then again, the last track in the album, ‘Wiggy Pop,’ leaves the listener with what might be a warning about not taking the whole lot far too seriously: “I’m just taking the piss, having a laugh, cracking a joke […] I’m casting the bait and seeing if you’ll bite.”
What’s Inside Is More Than Just Ham is a remarkably multi-layered work for a debut, and for its imperfections it’s certainly packed with great promise. It might not be entirely clear what direction FEET are thinking of taking, but every single one of the many potential avenues emerging from this record has the trappings of something very interesting. Whatever comes next, if it has the same gleeful intensity as this record, it’s going to be a memorable ride.
FEET’s debut album, What’s Inside Is More Than Just Ham is set for release on 4th October via Clapped Records. Various formats and bundles can be pre-ordered, here.
FEET will be touring the album throughout October and November:
20th October – Rough Trade, Bristol
21st October – Bedford Esquires, Bedfordshire
22nd October – The Camden Assembly, London
24th October – Forum, Tunbridge Wells
25th October – Ramsgate Music Hall, Ramsgate
26th October – Patterns, Brighton
27th October – Heartbreakers, Southampton
29th October – Waterfront, Norwich
30th October – The Bodega, Nottingham
1st November – Yes, Manchester
2nd November – Castle & Falcon, Birmingham
3rd November – Sound, Liverpool
5th November – Hyde Park Book Club, Leeds
6th November – Think Tank, Newcastle
7th November – Mash House, Edinburgh
8th November – Stereo, Glasgow
9th November – The Sound House, Dublin