While it’s nowhere near innovative, Feel the Noise is still a fun time for those who want to come along for the ride.
Paul Collins is a guy with an impressive résumé, even if he may not be a household name. Back in the ‘70s, he appeared in three influential bands (the Nerves, the Breakaways and the Beat) and his song “Walking Out On Love” has been performed on Broadway as part of the Green Day musical American Idiot. There’s even been talk that Green Day may record a Collins song on a future album. So the guy clearly has his fans in high places, and has done a fair bit to bolster the power pop movement. While, initially, Collins took a rootsier road in his solo career, he has recently come back to his power pop sound, and his latest, Feel the Noise, is a reactionary shot at the dross that’s on commercial radio these days. If you were to say to Collins that rock ‘n’ roll is dead, Collins would respond by kicking his guitar amp up to 11 and rocking out. These 12 songs show that there’s still power in power pop, and there’s still something to be said about old time rock ‘n’ roll. While it’s nowhere near innovative, Feel the Noise is still a fun time for those who want to come along for the ride.
Collins’ mission statement comes in the first track, the title cut: “I let my guitar do the talking now.” The song is what you would call a “basher”, full of woozy licks and a beat that will get you stomping your feet. Clearly, Collins is in full on rock mode here and the track may take you back to 1977, when guys like Nick Lowe were turning rock music on its head. It’s likable -- nothing that’s going to set the rock world on fire -- but, for something you can pump your fist to, it’s alright. Things take a turn into Byrds jangle rock on the next song, “Only Girl”. Here, Collins is paying homage and respect to bands of yore, as well as travelling down the well worn rock road of professing his love to his gal pal. Awww. The jangle pop is a recurring theme throughout the album, particularly on songs like “For All Eyes to See” and “Don’t Know How to Treat a Lady”. However, Collins spends some time bolstering the case for rock music on cuts such as “I Need My Rock N’ Roll”. And, for sure, songs like the rockabilly “Baby I’m In Love With You” -- bar none, the best track on the album -- keep things swinging.
However, the one noticeable cover on the LP, a reading of the Four Tops’ “Reach Out I’ll Be There”, unfortunately doesn’t hold a candle to the original, and is something of an embarrassment. While it’s obvious that Collins wants to pay respect to the spirit of soul, and reach into R&B territory, he simply doesn’t have the vocal chops to pull it off. He sounds haggard and tired, as though the only time he could book in the studio was at three in the morning. He’s better off strutting out his original material, even if it does sound vaguely familiar and some standard guitar riffs are used. The strut of “Baby I Want You” appeals, as does the countrified “With a Girl Like You”. Also noteworthy is “Little Suzy”, which is a punked up version of ‘50s rock. And the ballad “Walk Away”, which closes the album, does have a lasting feel that stays with the listener; at least, until the next time they come back to spin this platter. So, for those keeping score, Feel the Noise does cover a variety of territory ranging from country to rockabilly to soul to doo wop. The range of styles is effective, even if Collins doesn’t always succeed at pulling off the transitions. Though, having said that, the album is definitely well sequenced. As a big, fat sopping love letter to the spirit of rock ‘n’ roll, Feel the Noise is mildly successful. Again, there is nothing here that is particularly cutting edge, but that could be the charm for most.
Had this record come out in 1977, I may have had a different critical approach to it. It may have seemed revolutionary, groundbreaking even. However, in 2014, this sort of thing is old hat, even if the pop charts are cluttered with boy bands and toothless pap. There’s not enough fire in Collins' approach to make this seem incendiary. Instead, Feel the Noise is best for Collins fans, big name or no. The album is too rough around the edges vocally while being musically passive to make anything of an impression. Still, it’s a good time, and it is certainly nice to see someone trying to resurrect past glories. However, we should be at a point where rock music moves forwards and doesn’t look backwards so much. If it does more of the latter, then it just seems an exercise in trying to resurrect the past, when we already have the classic records from that era to do just that. Unless, of course, you can do it better, which is a tough feat to pull off. So does Collins fill a void? Maybe. However, a lot of the music on Feel the Noise is neither noise or feeling, it’s just a hop and a skip down memory lane. There’s nothing wrong with that, but you’ve heard this done before. Still, Collins is an impressive talent with a knack for a good song, and there’s a fun factor with Feel the Noise. It’s too bad it couldn’t have been something more, but as a tasty treat that’s a serving of rock’s past, it might satisfy the soul. And if it doesn’t, well, there are those records from the ‘70s that fans can revisit whenever they want.