"Mr. Blue Sky" by ELO. "Knowing Me, Knowing You" by ABBA. "Somebody To Love" by Queen. "Bloody Well Right" by Supertramp.
Depending on your reaction to these four songs, I can accurately predict whether or not you'll enjoy The Feeling's Join With Us. If your pulse quickens and you feel a sugar rush of elation at the towering walls of vocals, layer-cake guitars and mighty hooks associated with the above, then rejoice. If not, well, I'm sure there's some slice of dusty Americana that came out this week too.
The quintet known as the Feeling hail from England (and I'm tempted to add "circa 1975" though they're all obviously twentysomething guys). A few years ago, they were a cover band at a ski resort in the Swiss Alps, playing two sets a night in two different bars. It was there that they honed their vocal harmonies and learned the secrets of pop architecture.
Those secrets are on colorful display right from the start in "I Thought It Was Over." With a propulsive synthbeat wrapped in Liszt-style piano flourishes and falsetto vocals, the song tweaks the usual verse-chorus structures in the same way that ABBA and Queen used to, piling on extra, unexpected melodic flourishes until the whole song sounds like one extended mega-chorus. Ditto on "Without You," "Connor," "Turn It Up," and "Don't Make Me Sad."
What ultimately makes this album much more than an exercise in pop pastiche is the feeling and conviction in vocalist Dan Gillespie Sells. Whether he's singing a faux-metal individualist anthem like "Join With Us" or melancholy ballad like "Spare Me," Sells, well, sells the heart and soul at the center of these confections.
While the Feeling have already had mucho airplay in Britain and won an Ivor Novello Award for songwriting, they may end up as an another valiant group--a la Jellyfish or Candybutchers--who tried to restore melody and grandeur to American pop music. • Bill DeMain