There are probably more than a few fans of the Feed who had given up on the prospect of an actual full-length album. Short of a seven-song EP from 2006 with an earlier lineup and a track on 2012's Tower Groove Records comp, the band's recorded output has been nil, despite steady gigs and no shortage of original material. So the long lead-up to Outsider belies the making of the record itself; recorded over just a few days in Jason McEntire's Sawhorse Studios, the album sees the quartet ripping through material in an overdriven flurry of vintage keyboards and locked-in grooves. The self-imposed timeline produced a taut, lean album with little fat but lots to chew on.
This column could blow through its word count outlining the various bands these members have played in — large-scale tribute acts, funk-and-soul outfits, session men for singer-songwriters — but the Feed finds these players in their purest states, performing songs that pull from their diverse record collections but that focus on the interplay between the musicians. Pianist and vocalist Dave Grelle helms these tracks with a voice that registers between blue-eyed soul and a safety-pinned sneer. He's long favored the muddy, vibrant pings of electric pianos (as on the dreamlike closing song "Maggie Jean"), but it's a pleasure to hear him spend time on a grand piano and dress his songs with both bluesy verve and Brill Building song craft. Earlier incarnations of the band had Ben Reece splitting time between bass and saxophone, but the horns are left in their cases for the bulk of this album (though check his slurpy, skronky lines on the Tom Waits-in-a-strip-club "Strut"). Guitarist Jordan Heimburger is a relative newcomer to the band which had been guitar-free for the first half of its existence, but his and Grelle's parts meld with a crunch and a smack.
The Feed prides itself on being hard to pin down, and these nine songs don't offer one set path, but Outsider is sequenced to deliver the swiftest, most rock-oriented songs early on. "Celestial Ceiling" is a falsetto-driven piece of glammy New Wave that smartly starts the LP with the band's least typical song — the stops and starts offer white space where other songs in the band's catalog can feel overstuffed. The LP's second half gives the band room to stretch; the slow-growing thrum of "Everybody Wants You" shows the band's psychedelic strain, while the initially manic "Victim" builds to a staccato breakdown that displays the players' jazz chops.
Really, the revelation of this album is not that the Feed is one of St. Louis' best shape-shifting rock groups — showgoers have known that for years — but that the band treats its long-awaited LP like a really great Friday night gig instead of some belabored thesis statement. But now that we know the Feed can bash out a great album in a weekend, we hopefully won't be waiting five years for the next one.