This Northern Uproar article was written by Daisy Whittingham, a GIGsoup contributor
Northern Uproar’s fifth album ‘Hey Samurai!’ is a world away from their scrappy self titled Britpop debut of 1996 and the follow up of 1997 ‘Yesterday Tomorrow Today.’ We leave the greasy raucous sound of a Saturday night at the Roadhouse for more of a soundtrack to a Madchester Sunday morning.
The tracks are soaked in warm bass, rich in harmonious vocals and littered with stylish Spanish style guitar. Meya’s vocals have lost their rough edge and touch on perfection in the way they are effortlessly paired with clean and sharply executed guitar. The album speaks in every track of a band with experience. The instruments used range from a giro to bongos, trumpet to harmonica and all are deployed with finesse. The little flares of brass which emerge at the end of certain tracks, rounding off the whole air of optimism the record exudes, are superb. There is a dub vibe in the constant rich bass lines and something continental in the guitar. The tracks flow past in even bursts, leaving you with a sense of sun soaked streets and mellow mornings after the night before.
A stand out track is undoubtedly ‘Outlaws Robbing Trains’. The Manc Review heralded it as their single of the week back in August and as a track it does stick somewhere between your eyes and refuses to depart until you’ve bopped your head to it the entire day. The synth and Leslie-Hammond sound is deployed with confidence and style (The Stone Roses’ Mani would have been proud of that funky bass line). The echoing vocal is a throwback to the best Britpop gave us, before the track runs head long into that awesome organ once again.
‘Jackals’ and ‘Last Call’ come in at the softer end of the spectrum, but both stand out for their beautiful lyrics, clean composition and pure vocals; twinned as always with that bass which pumps in your chest cavity, reminding you constantly of its presence. ‘Rodriguez the Bull’ has the surrealist confidence of something like The Beatles‘ ‘Rocky Racoon’ or ‘Maggie Mae’; it’s mad but you’re loath to skip it.
The tracks aren’t muddied or overfilled. The effectiveness of the album comes from the way guitar lines and Meya’s superb vocals are allowed to speak for themselves in uncrowded well executed tracks. Now for the critique, which is very much of the if-you-have-to twisted arm variety. Where was this album two months ago? It is so warm it would have been a welcome addition to the indie summer soundtrack of 2015.
This is a band that knows their sound. But it is a sound they are willing to develop – and develop it they have with great style. There is often a golden-age tendency amongst nineties artists to herald back to the good old days when bands ruled the world. Noel Gallagher won’t stop telling us that there will never be another Oasis: of course not. Music has changed over twenty years and Northern Uproar not only acknowledge this, but embrace it. The use of interesting synth sounds, the spicy brass additions and the immaculate production pay testament to a band with talent and ever burdening creativity.
The band’s name has always struck me as a guarantee of quality, enveloping that Mancunian groove, but printing something on that is both fresh and resilient. Spots of inactivity in the band’s career have had little impact on the quality of the albums they produce, which always fall on a reviewer’s ears with the positivity and success they deserve. This is a stylish and experienced album from a stylish and experienced band.
‘Hey Samurai!’ is out now