Northern Uproar were still in their teens when they arrived during the glorious Britpop years, making them the best part of a decade younger than the most notable bands of the era. By the time they really began to hit their stride, the music press had dismissed them and should-have-been-hit singles from their underrated second album ‘Yesterday Tomorrow Today’ were given very little exposure. The group split in 1999 but returned in 2007 with ‘Stand And Fight’, a record which re-established them as a rock band rather than an indie guitar combo. With many mid 90’s groups coming back, they decided to relaunch themselves a couple of years ago, relishing another chance to prove their worth.
They are aware that commercial success is no longer within their reach, and they are aware that music press cynics will continue to try and dismiss them, but a passion for playing music and a pride that comes with doing what they believe in is what keeps them going. ‘All That Was Has Gone’ is their fourth album, funded by dedicated fans via Pledge Music and raising a two-fingered salute to the music industry that turned their back on such a fine group.
Listeners will be surprised at the diversity of this record, where the optimism of their self titled 1996 debut meets the infectious melodies of their second LP, topping it off with the hard riffing of ‘Stand And Fight’. There are fresh ideas and new directions, but Northern Uproar don’t jump on bandwagons or desperately try to follow and conform to trends. They simply play the music they love, whatever style it may be, making the best of what they create. Opener ‘There’s A Place’ sets the tone, a laid back introduction complete with nice Johnny Marr-esque guitars, while the single ‘Everywhere That I Go’ is the closest thing here that you’ll find to Britpop, where the sound of the 1996 debut reappears all grown up and considerably more world-wise. Recorded on a small budget, the basic production takes a while to get used to and initially strays dangerously close to pub-rock, but give this album a blast through a good pair of headphones or some bass enhancing speakers, and the songs will do the business.
They’re clearly having a blast on the superb ‘Stealin’ Time’, which recalls the attitude of early Oasis but delivers the direct punch that makes the Northern Uproar sound stand apart from the rest. Don’t expect them to be content with deliberately trying to echo the music of the mid 90’s, because these guys aren’t about nostalgia. As far as they’re concerned, their moment is today. Blur, Suede and the members of Oasis are all in their 40’s now. These guys are still in their 30’s, and as well as having a lot more to prove have also built up a creative thirst, due to being out of the game for long periods of time. Recent live performances seem to have rejuvenated the band, and experience has allowed them to explore new areas, various tracks benefiting from a healthy amount of “light and shade”. During writing and recording, frontman Leon Meya reckoned the new material “just feels very natural”. It sounds very natural too.
After the band split in the late 90’s Meya briefly returned to Spain, where he had spent the first five years of his life. He immersed himself in the country’s musical culture and began playing in a group with his uncles, an experience that has added some extra colours to his musical palette. This is demonstrated wonderfully on the acoustic pleasures of ‘Lies’, where the radiant sunshine is paired with a cooling breeze. ‘(Feels Like I’m) Coming Up’ matches guitar melodies reminiscent of early 90’s indie with the stiff upper lip grit of its meaty riff, while ‘Sometimes’ deals in positive reflection. Immediate highlight ‘Load It Up’ is packed with the sort of classic rock riffs that wouldn’t have sounded out of place on a Boston album and comes with a hugely infectious air punching chorus that is guaranteed to invade your head and refuse to budge.
On the other end of the spectrum is the gorgeous ‘Riding On The Waves’, where the Spanish vibes and touching chorus meet a style that brings to mind Paul Simon‘s ‘Graceland’. Certainly not what you’d expect from the band who were once mistakenly labelled “the new Oasis”. ‘Never Wanted To Stay’ returns to the no-nonsense rock riffs, before the brilliant title track offers a smart bassline and an earnest sense of introspection that builds throughout, leading into a powerful yet understated chorus towards the end. ‘You’re The One Within’ returns to the exotic ambience and ends the album on a high, proving that Northern Uproar have grown far beyond the ‘Britpop’ tag.
The spirit of Northern Uproar is perfectly summed up in one of Leon’s quotes: “It was always about the music, the rest is smoke and mirrors… and overpayed A&R men. Our reasons for doing this haven’t changed since we started age 12… It’s a fucking amazing way to live, making music with yer mates, and playing it at high volume!” Amen to that. Rating:
Buy your copy of ‘All That Was Has Gone’ on CD HERE (in the UK)