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54.40 - Northern Soul

  by Malcolm Carter

published: 1 / 4 / 2009



54.40 - Northern Soul
Label: True North Records
Format: CD

intro

Atmospheric pop/rock on tenth album from big-sounding and evocative power pop quartet 54.40, who, while huge in their homeland, are little known outside their native Canada


Another release by Canadian label True North Records and another album from a band that is apparently huge in their homeland but who will be unknown to many Europeans. 54.40 started life in 1981 so the band, after a few line-up changes, have been around a long time and have released a string of albums which have sold over a million copies. Any band that has been going for nearly three decades and are still putting bums on seats and shifting that many records (some even achieving gold and platinum status in Canada) must be doing something right. On first listen 54.40 come across like many others ; solid pop/ rock, chiming guitars, the songs, well sung and melodic, building slowly until a chorus breaks in, usually one that is so catchy you can’t get it out of your head for weeks. U2 and REM come to mind at times but only for short periods. The band create a big sound, but it’s not a noise that you can’t break through; every instrument, every vocal, every little sound can be heard loud and clear and the melodies are also big and bold, the choruses are made for you to sing-along to but all the time there is this uncluttered wall of sound coming at you. It’s a pretty unique sound overall that this foursome has produced on this album, their tenth, if my maths is any good. They draw elements from many sources to produce something uniquely their own; no easy task. I thought that if a band had made so many albums and is still unknown to so many of us then maybe there was a good reason for that. But I can’t understand why this band is not huge in Europe, not on this showing anyway. They have so much going for them, the melodies stay with you, those choruses really are made to sing-along too and the playing and singing is spot-on. Sometimes though being a good, solid pop/rock band isn’t enough to break through to other markets even though you might be one of the most popular bands in your home country. I could understand, with just one listen to the first three songs on this album, why 54.40 were so huge in their homeland. What was there not to like? There is enough of the band's own identity and sound in these well-crafted songs to appeal to a wide audience and they have been doing it long enough so they should be good. But then on song four, the title track, the band make take a huge leap and go from making good, solid, catchy songs to making a classic. The song, ‘Northern Soul’ made me stop driving the first time I heard it. Okay, it’s probably not the first time you’ve read that. Many people have had to pull into the side of the road with the shock of hearing a song that completely and unexpectedly blew them away and ‘Northern Song’ certainly did that to me. While the song is not a great departure from the sound the band create throughout the album the lyrics, a question and answer exchange between parents who have lost a son in a war, are striking in their simplicity and again the band have wrapped them in a gorgeous melody. But the female vocals, which are taken by one Coral Osborne, (possibly related to 54.40 main man Neil Osborne who provides all the lyrics on the album and who co-produced the set with Dave Genn, also a band member) really take the band’s work to another level. There’s also absolutely stunning guitar work in this song. It is simply worth the price of the album alone. As with all their songs the band builds up an atmosphere in the song and not just with the sound of the instruments or the melody. Those dual vocals are stunning. From the opening lines which are just vocal and piano before the guitar and the strings come in on the chorus through a sixties-inspired bridge and back to the closing verse of vocal and piano again before more searing guitar work compliments the vocals, it’s a major piece of work. After that one might expect the album to take a slight dip and while nothing actually matches the beauty of that song the rest of the album is never disappointing. ‘Where Did The Money Go’ shows the band taking a lighter, more poppy approach, ‘One Hundred Songs’ displays yet another side to the bands talents utilising instruments one wouldn’t have associated with the band from the opening few songs. This album is highly recommended. It’s just over 40 minutes of perfect songs which get stronger with every play and, with the exception of that title song which I doubt any band will better this year, it throws up a new favourite song every time I play it. Guess I’m going to have to work my way through the other nine or so albums now to see if they match up to ‘Northern Soul’.



Track Listing:-
1 The Chant
2 Snap
3 The Scare Of Meaning Less
4 Northern Soul
5 Where Did The Money Go
6 One Hundred Songs
7 Shade Grows
8 Moonbeach
9 The Wind Down
10 To Face Your Eyes
11 Lucky


Label Links:-
http://truenorthrecords.com/
https://www.facebook.com/tnrecords
https://twitter.com/truenorthrecord
http://truenorthrecords.tumblr.com/
https://www.youtube.com/user/truenorthrecords
https://instagram.com/truenorthrecords/



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