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Wednesday, January 14, 2015

(the) Music - Welcome to the North

Band: The Music
Album: Welcome to the North
Year: 2004
Style: Alt/Hair Metal, Brit-Pop
Similar Bands: Coldplay, Kasabian, Razorlight, Janes Addiction, Queensryche, Muse, Slaughter, Mr. Big, Franz Ferdinand, 
One Word Review: Updated Soaring Hair Metal
Based Out Of: Kippax, Leeds, UK
Label: Capitol
 Welcome to the North - Cover & Liner Notes/Photos
Welcome to the North - Liner Notes/Photos 
Welcome to the North - Liner Notes/Photos  
Welcome to the North - Liner Notes/Photos 
Welcome to the North - CD, Back and Cover Sticker
Welcome to the North (2004)
  1. Welcome to the North 5:10
  2. Freedom Fighters 3:44
  3. Bleed From Within 6:28
  4. Breakin' 3:58
  5. Cessation  3:51
  6. Fight the Feeling 4:12
  7. Guide 4:13
  8. Into the Night 3:59
  9. I Need Love 3:46
  10. One Way In, No Way Out 3:50
  11. Open Your Mind/The Walls Get Smaller (Hidden) 12:00
Album Rating (1-10): 5.5

Members & Other Bands:
Brendan O'Brein - Producer, Mixing
Nick DiDia -Recording
Karl Egsieker - Second Engineer
Billy Bowers - Additional Engineering
Phil Martin - Assistant Engineer
Bob Ludwig - Mastering
Peter Saville - Creative Consultant
James Greenhow - Art Direction & Design
Tom Skipp - Art Direction & Design
Rachel Thomas - Set Design
Dan Tobin Smith - Cover Photography
Coalition Management - Managment
Ron Laffitte - A&R
Robert Harvey - Vox, Guitar (the Streets, The D.O.T)
Adam Nutter - Guitar
Stuart Coleman - Bass
Phil Jordan - Drums (Insense)

Unknown-ness: I’m not really sure why I bought this. But it was definitely the fact that it was on sale at Tower Records for the obscenely low price somewhere between 1.50 – 2.99. I’m sure I also either heard a couple of tracks there to want to buy the album, or I read comparisons of them to other Brit-Pop bands. But after that, I don’t really remember listening to the album or what any of the songs are like. 2004 puts it in the angular-chord heavy brit pop genre, but I’m not 100% sure. I’m gonna go with that, though for my guess.

Album Review: This band was, at one point, labeled the best unsigned band in Britain. But after two albums that saw a good deal of success, and a third of less praise (along with a singles & EP comp), the band called it quits in 2011. Part of the strain on the band was the singer’s addiction to drugs and later, alcohol. He cleaned up, but they never regained the momentum of the first two albums. The album does not really qualify as Brit-Pop, as it is louder, and heavier than what is typically defined as Brit-pop. The vocals are nasally and high and soar over the music rather than follow calculated melodies or hooks. The album is pretty bad.

“Welcome to the North” features a fuzzy distortion and a looping acoustic guitar in the beginning. It then blasts off with heavier guitars and a driving drum beat and nasally Janes Addiction-like vocals that just soar. At the base of it, there is a Franz Ferdinand style rhythm, but it is buried down beneath anthemic arena rock. The verse, if it stood alone, would categorize the band as Nu-Metal.
“Freedom Fighters” was the first single from the album. It begins with a “Life Is A Highway”/ “Ragdoll” drumbeat. Then aggressive guitars are layered overtop, and the high echoing vocals further cement the genre in metal/rock, rather than catchy brit-pop. The lead guitar in the instrumental tries to pull the style back into brit-pop territory, but it is too little and is outnumbered.
“Bleed From Within” starts with a quiet guitar looped in watery echo. The vocals begin in a power ballad style, reminding me of Queensryche. This is what Muse would be like without British Influence. I feel like this was a little ahead of its time, since this is the emo, angsty brooding style of music I’d expect to be used as background music for a tense CW show. It ends in a march of sorts, repeating lines, and reminds me briefly of some of XTC’s early vocal remixes.
“Breakin'” was also a single from the album. The song still features a heavy, buzzing electric guitar, but it follows a much more Brit-Poppy melody. The verse features more soaring vocals, which don’t sound very promising, but when it reaches the chorus, they tighten up and bolster the melody, rather than work against it, creating an almost catchy song. There is a bit of a jungle element in the percussive melody, and the breakdown features syllables of the vocals dissected and edited back together. But at the root of the song, the driving element is the “Eh-Oh’s” that repeat in the background throughout most of the song.
“Cessation” is driving in a head down sprint, The Rifles sort of way. The vocals are never changing aggressive, and go through twice before visiting the chorus, which is a dual layered in-the-round style that never lets the pace down. In fact, if anything the vocals get more intense after the chorus for a brief section.
“Fight the Feeling” slows things down with a dreamy and dark waltzing melody with slow drums, and sorrowful vocals that still soar. The guitar brightens the song up a little once it is added on the second round through, but it is still a song in mourning.

“Guide” starts out with an electric wavering pulse of a guitar. The vocals are much more sedated in a good way, and the actual melody in the back feels like classic pop. The vocals do eventually break out of their “slump,” especially in the hair metal like chorus (Mr. Big) but return in the next verse. In the end, the song cannot be saved
“Into the Night” is quieter and feels introspective. The chorus attempts to gain power and bump the song up to an aggressive, emotional tune (reminds me of After the Rain for no real reason)
“I Need Love” has a bit of a Brit-Dance-pop sound at the intro, with the hook sounding like a six-noted alarm and a danceable drum beat.  Even the vocals in the chorus sound like a repetitive alarm.
“One Way In, No Way Out” slowly stomps forward with an unstable drum beat, setting the pace for a wobbling, unsteady tempo. The song gains balance with the electric guitars and continues to soar with the slowish-stomping pace.
“Open Your Mind” wraps up the album with a calmer voice that reminds me of James at the beginning. Then the soaring emo enthusiasm sets in for the chorus and the song launches into an anthemic, echoing sing-a-along. This is the song that shaking young girls sing along to with all their might while clutching their hands together in front of their heart. It becomes a bombastic, powerful soapbox song toward the end, and at the 4 minute mark, it is over
“The Walls Get Smaller” is the hidden instrumental track on the album so at the 6 minute mark on track 11, it begins with a quiet guitar playing a sad, yet sinister melody to itself. A cold, eerie woodwind melody is overlaid, and the song treads a fine line between metal and prog rock. After a while of melody exploration, guitars overpower the song and take over as the driving force. Their energy increases into a wall of fury and the drums join the intense crescendo. It fades out into a residual hum and ends the album non-climactically. 

Stand Out Track: Breakin'

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