Northcote – Northcote album review

Northcote’s eponymous third record is not so much an album as a single theme and variations. It’s an appealing theme, to be sure, filled with jangly guitar and confident tenor voices, and bedecked with the brass riffage so fashionable among this decade’s indie-folk records. So perhaps the band can be forgiven for neglecting the ‘variation’ part of the equation.

It’s records like these, relying on the mainstream staples of thumping beats and ‘wooah’-ing backing vocals, that make one question the meaning of the word “indie”. Because when it comes to serving up comfort food, Northcote more closely resembles a McDonald’s franchise than an independent burger joint – the fare is not only rich, but interchangeable with anything else served up under a big ‘M’ (conveniently also the first initial of ‘Mumford and’…). So don’t go looking to Northcote for much more than bimboish ear-candy: frontman Matt Goud demonstrates the extent of the album’s lyrical potential when he advises his audience, on “Hope the Good Times Never Die”, to “Try not to take it in a bad way / If life ever gets you down.”

Whatever Northcote is, it is not front-loaded. Only at track 5, “Burn Right Past Them All”, does the band begin to deviate from the systematic churning-out of two-to-three-minute bouncy guit-box pop in favor of something sparser and more expansive. When “Drive Me Home” trundles around, the group begins to unfurl some real talents, exploding from strummy folk into an atmospheric post-rock climax. Track 8, “Knock on My Door”, turns sharply inward, a slow, intimate guitar-driven groove struggling to push genuine emotion through the frustrating gritlessness of the production.

With that, the record’s journey toward originality collapses in a wheezing, chest-clutching heap. Yes, there are indeed four more tracks to go, and no, listeners are not especially advised to press the ‘play’ button on any of them, least of all the gooey fadeout-marred closer, “Only One Who Knows My Name”. The culprit of Northcote’s sugar-plastered demise? Not the harmony, whose obstinate smoothness makes the principal case for the band’s competency. Not the production, whose prudish clarity at least manages to stay out of the performers’ way. Rather, the lyrics, in all their platitudinous glory, prove to be the start and unfortunate un-end of the band’s troubles. Not since 30 Seconds to Mars’s This is War has a troupe of experienced musicians pumped out so many clichés with so little self-consciousness. So, for those wondering how far neo-sincerity must go before overstaying its welcome, the answer is: this far. In the absence of other achievements, Northcote’s Northcote will at least leave listeners starved for irony.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Scroll to Top