|North Of Grand - 'A Farewell To Rockets' (Brolester Records)|
|Written by Ben Hughes|
|Tuesday, 26 February 2013 04:00|
Iowa's alternative rockers North Of Grand have previously recorded four albums as a three piece since 2003 and now, with their line up boosted to a four piece with the addition of Matt Wellendorf on guitar, they offer up their fifth album, 'A Farewell To Rockets'. The title and album artwork is a tribute to the Rocket Transfer Warehouse in downtown Des Moines, a place where these guys have spent the last decade rehearsing, partying and writing songs, sadly for them it has been made into condos. So it seems North Of Grand move into a new era with 'A Farewell To Rockets', a new line-up, new label and new rehearsal space, maybe this is their time to shine.
Things are tasty from the off with 'Hey Man', an infectious, power pop workout for sure. The quirky tinged vocals of Sean Wilson fit well here, with good use of melody and space they come on like Nada Surf mixed with early Everclear and that sure ain't a bad thing in my book. The cool "hey man let's get it back" refrain and the ensuing riff sticks in the mind making it the perfect opener to the album.
This sound continues throughout, the hooks are plentiful, the melodies memorable. 'VHS', with Wilson sharing vocal lines with drummer Pat Curtis I believe, is a decent track, as is the following 'Built To Last' with its familiar chord progression making it a highlight.
Bashed-out, distorted open chords are the order of the day it seems, the punky elements are there for sure but the emphasis is on melody, and this is something they do well. Wilson's quirky vocal style and early Foo Fighters riffage gives their sound a distinct late '90s College Rock feel to me, there are hints of Dinosaur Jr and The Pixies in songs like 'Four Walls' and 'The New Fast', with its Thin Lizzy-like twin guitar harmonies.
Closer 'Reputation' rides in on feedback and a fat wall of guitars, indie beats and jagged little riffs and its all over way too quickly, great finisher indeed. Standout tracks? Well, the album is bookended by their two strongest songs for sure and that goes to show that the sequencing of an album is more important than a lot of people think. If it had started or ended with any of the other songs here it wouldn't have got as many plays on my stereo, so they got it right.
Niggles? Yeah, a few small ones. On 'No Way Down' it all gets a bit messy and out of shape to be honest, like a rehearsal that just didn't go right, and the vocals are at times too low in the mix. Take 'Left For Dead' for example, I can't make the lyrics out at all, luckily there's lyrics in the booklet, it all gets a bit low-fi, but doesn't detract from the quality of the music on offer.
Overall 'A Farewell To Rockets' is a mixed bag, some great tunes indeed, but also a few that lack direction. Sitting comfortably somewhere between Power Pop and Punk Pop is where they seem to fit and surely that's ain't a bad place to be. Worth a look definitely for those with an alternative state of mind.