Feeder’s Buck Rogers Is A Piece of Understated Genius

Updated: Nov 12, 2019

Feeder are back. With their latest album hitting #4 on the UK album chart, it's safe to say that they have completed their comeback into the elite of British rock and for a time, that looked unlikely. After their 2006 compilation ‘The Singles’, which hit #2 on the UK album charts, their career dived. Echo, their record label, folded, and the lack of funds for proper promotion meant that the word of new material just didn’t get out anymore. Radio 1 stopped playlisting their new singles and in the space of about two years, people forgot them. But from 2001-2006, they enjoyed five glorious years at the top of the British music scene, and one song in particular catapulted them into this territory.

That song was Buck Rogers.

The public went nuts for it. To this day it remains a hit at festivals, and it is the one Feeder song people are guaranteed to know. It’s similar to ‘Bohemian Like You’ by The Dandy Warhols in that, often, they’ve forgotten the band who did it as well as the song name. But if you say “You know, the one about a brand new car, jaguar, leather seats, CD player player player”, you’ll normally get a response of “Ohhhhhh, THAT one! I remember that!”

The critics weren’t so crazy on it. NME first said it would be “lucky to reach the top 30” at the time of release, and just to ram the point home, they re-reviewed it for no reason four years later in 2005, describing the song as “tired and anachronistic“.

Not even writer/guitarist/frontman Grant Nicholas is keen on it. He doesn’t want the song to be his lasting legacy and has described it as a “throwaway pop song”. In a way, he’s right. The song is ludicrously simple and those lyrics aren’t exactly groundbreaking or clever. In fact, they’re a bit weird. “Get a house in Devon/Drink Cider from a Lemon”? No idea.

Feeder, pictured here with late drummer Jon Lee (left).

But all this is WHY the song is so good. The song is now nearly twenty years old and yet still sounds as fresh now as it did then. If the band were twenty years younger and they released this song today, I’d put any amount of money on it being just as successful now. The song is so carefree, so full of joy and optimism, and more than anything, it gets you smiling and pumping. That’s why it’s such a good festival song – you can bounce to it without a care in the world. It’s anthemic, and nothing brings a crowd together more than an anthemic track.

Yes, the song is simple, and yes, the lyrics are nonsensical, but when you’re having fun, who the Hell cares? Music is a form of entertainment, something we like because we enjoy it, and you’d be hard pressed to find a song that embraces a more carefree and joyful nature than Buck Rogers.

The story of this song’s success is just the same as with any other surprise successes in rock music. Black Sabbath’s Paranoid was allegedly written in half an hour and it became their most recognisable song. Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit wasn’t expected to be a success; it was only released to generate a little buzz before Come As You Are came out. Instead, Teen Spirit became Nirvana’s most famous track and sent the band into stardom. Sweet Child O’ Mine by Guns N’ Roses was originally nothing more than a practice riff for Slash to warm his fingers up before a recording or live session. It is now their signature song. The running theme here is that the simple songs tend to be the most successful, and Buck Rogers continued this trend.

Buck Rogers itself was written in jest, as an attempted emulation of the Pixies (another similarity it shares with Smells Like Teen Spirit), but instead it became Feeder’s calling card. Nicholas has said he feels embarrassed about a few of the tracks he’s written for Feeder, and you can bet that he was referring to Buck Rogers. But he has nothing to be embarrassed about. Music doesn’t have to be dark, sad and/or meaningful. Sometimes, the simple, joyful nature of a song can make it timeless and fresh. And that is exactly the case here. Bravo, Mr. Nicholas, on your accidental genius. All together now:

“He’s got a brand new car…”