Welcome To The North
eeds youngsters The Music (the jury’s still out on whether this is the best or worst band name in the history of rock) may have titled their second album in a manner which suggests they’re a part of the north of England’s rich musical heritage, but in order to record it they actually decamped to Atlanta, Georgia and teamed up with Peal Jam and Soundgarden producer Brendan O’Brien, eager for him to muscle-up their hyper-electric groove rock. To be fair their sound was far from wimpy to begin with, but only a handful of early tunes (most notably “Take The Long Road And Walk It”) had been taut enough to prevent their furious bluster coming undone at the seams. With Peter Saville brought in to co-ordinate the artwork as well, Welcome To The North is a concerted effort to smash The Music through into the big league.
The baggy beats and techno touches that occasionally made their eponymous debut seem slightly forced and naïve are stripped away, O’Brien’s production giving the band a more expensive, professional sound, just as massive and frenetic as the wilful teenage strafing they used to create, but with infinitely more control. As such guitarist Adam Nutter is no longer a low-rent John Squire wannabe hammering out straightforward Zep-riffs with enough overdrive and wah to mask their simplicity, but actually starts to live up to his surname, pealing tightly controlled edge-of-frenzy lines off left, right and centre like a Yorkshire Dave Navarro. Likewise singer Robert Harvey now sounds less like Geddy Lee than Perry Farrell, even if his lyrics do occasionally wander into audaciously silly territory (“the sun is bleeding into mine eye” and “the sky is just a diamond reflecting the sea” indeed). But perhaps the biggest step forward is the rhythm section, bassist Stuart Coleman working within the songs rather than shouldering them like a hod carrier, and drummer Phil Jordan, always an accomplished if unsubtle groove-holder, elevated and enervated to such an extent that he’s now integral to the band’s entire aesthetic.
The band are at their best when propelling themselves at breakneck speeds through OTT numbers like lead single “Freedom Fighters” and the swirling, hooky “Breakin”, when guitars, drums and yelped vocals collapse into delirium. On “Bleed From Within” Nutter’s awesome bull’s-eye riffs and Harvey’s euphoric scatting give way to an extended samba coda that artfully maintains excitement and avoids indulgence, and in “Guide” the band have written their first bona fide pop song. They may sometimes falter with their slower numbers (songwriting not yet an overt strength), but somehow The Music have managed to mature from callow kids into one of the most electrifying rock bands of the moment.
Reviewed by: Nick Southall
Reviewed on: 2004-09-28