In this age of quantifiable popularity, the internet can be a dangerous thing, particularly when it comes to overzealous press releases for new rock bands. If your first two singles have worked your fans 'into a frenzy', you’d expect a few more than 184 likes on Facebook and 550 friends on MySpace, figures more akin to a newly-formed local band finding their feet than those of a firmly-established act ready to release their first full-length. However, on the basis of debut release Feeding Time, Wayter need to pull their promotional socks up: this is an album that deserves to be heard.
Doing away with the whole 'first impressions' cliché, Feeding Time features a variety of simplistic, unpretentious song titles which serve to compliment the wonderfully child-like 'animals and dinosaurs doing stuff' cover art. However, these straightforward names belie the complex and elaborate arrangements which populate the compositions on offer. A song like ‘Atlantic: Pacific’ may begin with distorted, discordant guitar picking but the ways in which Wayter manipulate structures and contrasts ensures that the listener is never quite sure where they’ll be taken next. For the record, ‘Atlantic: Pacific’ later yields to a simultaneously dreamy yet uneasy lilting pace, as the band’s three well-harmonised vocalists resign themselves to the fact that “here we are”.
Wherever “here” may be, it’s unlikely Wayter will be hanging around for too long; the band weaves virtually all the essential elements of the Nineties into a simultaneously familiar and forward-thinking album that, while not immediately accessible, will gradually seep into the subconscious. There are recognisable elements of grunge, shoegaze, proto-post-rockers Slint, indie rock and whatever other genre pigeonholing was popular twenty years ago. However, Wayter have succeeded where so many others have failed: Feeding Time doesn’t sound like it belongs in the era from which the band has taken so many of their sonic cues. Wayter have their own sound and, eclectic as their various muses may be, it works.
Take opener ‘Cheese Sandwich’: in some respects it recalls Dirty-era Sonic Youth, particularly with its “you distract the guard / I don’t care what you do / tear him apart” followed by “we’ll drive away / just me and you” lyrical themes. However, the underlying message is one of a pre-planned, co-operative assassination rather than a spontaneous shoot and run. In fact, this functions rather nicely as a metaphor for Wayter’s approach to songwriting and performance: dangerous, impassioned and edgy but without ever losing control.
While the band may be at the helm, much of Feeding Time instils a sensation of letting go; there is a Weezer-esque charm in the simplicity of lyrics like “blind to everything / I don’t know what tomorrow brings” which is magnificently juxtaposed with the intricacies of the instrumental parts. The compositions’ ever-evolving structures are reassuringly comfortable when compared with those of bands such as the late, great Oceansize, but are similar in their overall vision and grandiose execution; tracks like ‘Dial’ provide the album’s most anthemic, transcendent moments, with the band’s three-pronged vocal assault again proving its worth in an already instrumentally well-rounded mix.
There are, however, two sides to Wayter and it’s difficult to know which works best. Post-hardcore-inspired tracks like ‘Tba’ and ‘Bike Crash’, raw with angst-fuelled vehemence, are placed in excruciatingly sharp contrast with the aforementioned spaced-out compositions, owing more to Mogwai than Brand New. Indeed, these ten tracks could easily be cut into two relatively cohesive EPs but as an album they don’t quite fit. On top of which, the reverbed, slightly cluttered feel of the production, while certainly retaining a DIY ethic, can often make things overly confusing for the listener, particularly in the album’s noisier moments.
That said, this is a first effort and Wayter are, consequently, most definitely a band to watch: there’s so much potential here it’s almost suffocating. However, a few tweaks to the sound displayed on Feeding Time would help to not only establish a secure sonic identity for the band but also to improve on it in the future. As it stands, Wayter are a talented bunch but one that is lacking a sense of direction. For their sake, not to mention their 184 fans, 550 friends and 85 listeners, let’s hope someone tells them where to go.
7Michael Brown's Score