The Good North
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The best kept secret in music

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If Color Me Badd, Matchbox 20 or REO Speedwagon is listed as a band’s influence, I usually take that as my cue to stop reading. Hundreds of record reviews inundate me each month so if it becomes apparent early on that the band reviewed is gonna suck, then why waste the time? Boston-based band the Good North experienced a different kind of bias. Comparisons with bands like the Smiths, the Cure, early U2 and even current rock gods Radiohead, gave them a lot to live up to before their new disc even met my player. With past trends being co-opted at an alarming rate and the '80s revival in full swing, I was naturally cynical.

Consequently the first listening left me dumbfounded. There were no jangly guitars, no outrageous brit-pop affectations; instead, what I heard was dense guitar work and an emo-pop sensibility. Singer Luke O’Neil’s voice is immediately recognizable as one of the band's greatest strengths. Alternating between soaring Thom Yorke-ness, and the controlled power of Jeremy Enigk on early Sunny Day Real Estate stuff, O’Neil’s voice is always impressive. Musically, the Good North is equally postmodern. “Visions of You” boasts Disintegration-esque guitar work, “This is Your Final Chance” wears its punk rock influence on its sleeve, and the bands’ professed love of Idlewild will hardly come as a surprise, but it works.

Though not entirely original, An Explanation is not without appeal. The Good North is the sound of guys taking what that they listened to, loved and learned from the music of the 80’s and 90’s and making it their own. Better with each listen, standout tracks include “Postcards,” “Visions of You” and “Why Can’t We Dance.” - Filter Magazine


Boston’s own British invasion
The Anglophile angles of the Good North and the Information
BY MIKE MILIARD
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BRITPOP PLUS: for the Good North, the operative word is melody.

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At their practice space in Brighton’s Sound Museum, four-fifths of the Good North have gathered over a couple of six-packs to talk about their new EP, Life Outside Our Walls (Primary Voltage), which they’ll be celebrating with a release party this Friday at T.T. the Bear’s Place. And as it happens, Primary Voltage founder Evan Koch (a/k/a "Coach") has just shown up with a box of newly minted CDs, and the band crowd around to get a first look. They’re all thrilled, but I confess my disappointment that it’s not more of a Smell the Glove–type moment.

"Oh, we’ll have plenty of Spinal Tap moments, I’m sure," says singer Luke O’Neil. "Moz will probably die on the way over."

Yes, the band’s drummer, Mike Morrissey (who, when he finally arrives, does not spontaneously combust), is called Moz. That fits. With their avowed Anglophilia, moody lagered-up swagger, and songs ringing with guitars that swirl into perfect storms of cresting melodic swells, the Good North are often likened to Britpop standard bearers from Oasis to Radiohead to the Cure.

In fact, another reason they’ve assembled in their practice space is to brush up on Smiths and Morrissey covers. When I catch up with them a week later, at the fifth-anniversary celebration of WERS’s British Accents radio show, the band are on stage at the Middle East, mixing and matching members with their friends and label mates the Information (who’ll play the support slot at their CD-release party) and tearing through tight versions of "Hand in Glove" and "This Charming Man." Guitarists from both bands lock together in an estimable approximation of Johnny Marr’s crisp and tricky fretwork, and O’Neil and Information singer Max Fresen both channel Morrissey’s keening heartsick lilt with striking verisimilitude.

O’Neil, Morrissey, and guitarist Leo Crowley even have Irish surnames that echo those of the mopy Mancunians (Marr, Morrissey, Rourke, and Joyce). But the rest of the Good North line-up is more pan-global: new-ish guitarist Alex Jorge is from Santiago, Chile; and bassist Dave Riley is a New Zealand native who came to the Hub to visit his sister three years ago and has yet to leave. "We started as just a bunch of boring white Irish dudes, but now we’ve got an international flavor," O’Neil jokes. "Unfortunately, Leo and I are still just boring white Irish dudes."

Despite an affinity for the remnants of Cool Britannia, O’Neil isn’t so sure he wants his group to be pegged as an "American Britpop" band, as at least one critic has called them. "We’ve always been talked about in relation to Britrock, but we’ve started to get away from that. I guess the fact that we’re doing a Smiths cover band says a lot about our interests. But Alex isn’t even really that big of a Smiths fan. Some people compare us to stuff that half the band doesn’t even know. None of us are big Echo and the Bunnymen fans. I don’t think any of us are even big Cure fans. There is a strong undercurrent of Anglophile-type stuff, but last night at practice we played three Alice in Chains covers, just for fun. And it was awesome."

O’Neil more readily admits his admiration for the muscular melodicism of Idlewild. (The Good North got their name from the lyrics to an Idlewild song, and they’ve opened for that band.) For his part, Kiwi expat Riley was indeed influenced by antipodean power-pop bands like the Chills and the Clean. "It’s part and parcel of being from New Zealand, that whole Flying Nun label. It was good to grow up and see those bands." He adds that "if we ever did a tour of New Zealand, we’d be so hooked up. The only problem is the $2000 airfare."

It’s easy to trace the tight but expansive melodic influence of Idlewild and the Flying Nun roster in the Good North’s visceral and compulsively catchy songs. "The thing that binds ’em together is a sense of melody," Riley says. "That’s a constant in all the songs that we write. Whatever we’re doing, we agree that melody is gonna be the thing that binds what we wanna say and what we wanna do."

The songs on Life Outside Our Walls represent a great leap forward, in conception and execution, from the band’s first EP, 2002’s Define Worth Waiting, and their 2003 full-length debut, An Explanation (both Primary Voltage). "Not Feeling It" kicks in with a maelstrom of seething but symphonious guitars undergirded with Morrissey’s heavy-steady backbeat and Riley’s insistent bass. O’Neil’s fervid vocals are "emo" without any of that term’s negative connotations. "Always Works Out Wrong," with its pealing clarion-call guitars and O’Neil’s plangent invocations, recalls October-era U2. Like t - Boston Phoenix


The Good North
Welcome to How It Is
by Glenwood

Photo by Mathew Jefferson

William Blake wrote: "Youth is beauty/ Exuberance is beauty." Youth and exuberance, passion and energy - the qualities that add up to charisma - TGN have in spades. The music of these five (aged 22 to 26) draws from '80s U2, Idlewild, The Sheila Divine, and The Smiths. They rock but aren't heavy, they emote but aren't emo. When they're onstage, they are riveting, when they are offstage, they don't seem to realize it because they are still a show: a continuous, self-referential, ludicrous sideshow of alcohol, cigarettes, cocksure posing, silly banter, and genuine affection for one another. After our interview I realized I was talking in TGN-speak, which, like the hiccups, is hard to stop once you start.

Signed to Cambridge's Primary Voltage Records, their debut CD, An Explanation, received over 50 reviews and has been played on over 100 radio stations. They sold out their CD release at The Middle East, won their opening night of The Rumble, and have opened for bands like Walkmen, Dismemberment Plan, Ted Leo, Stellastar, Mark Gardener, Ash, and Idlewild, from whose lyrics they plucked their band name.

I caught up with the band at their Allston rehearsal space in the Sound Museum (because they can't smoke at The Model).

Luke O' Neil: singer, poet. Currently finishing his M.A. in literature. Handsome, glasses, studied cool (apparently between cigarettes he lives at the gym).
Johnny Healey: lead guitarist. 6' 4," rail thin, tattooed, can swing in a moment from jubilant raconteur to self-effacing.
Mike Morrissey, or Moz: drummer, the best musician in the band - its natural star - mercurial, short, sweet, and always drinking.
Dave Riley: bassist. Blond, affable native New Zealander seems to be the personality that balances everyone.
Leo Crowley: Rhythm guitarist, old friends with Luke but recent addition to the band. Smartly dressed, cool hair, enigmatic, and well spoken.

BACKSTAGE DAMAGE

Noise: You guys have had some stellar shows lately. You've recently opened for your indie-rock heroes, Idlewild. What was that like?

Luke: We were worried they would think we were chooches because our name was from one of their songs but they turned out to be really nice. They let us use all their gear. Most bands in New Jersey, when you say "Hey kid, can I borrow a drum stool?" give you the stinkeye and a beefstick.

Noise: That said I heard you drank all their beer.

Dave: We drank Staind's beer.

Johnny: We were playing Axis with Ash and Staind was having some kind of party. I got a Staind sticker and said "Hey guys, let's go take one of their beers" and they had a chooch, looking out just for us, put him on TGN patrol. I put one foot through the curtain and was like "Get back there TGN!" So I distracted him and two of these guys got in there.

Noise: Other rumors include you trashing the Pearl Street dressing room. True?

Luke: We played Northhampton with the Damn Personals, The Figgs and Read Yellow and Joz and Moz wrecked the green room with Jimmy DP's. Then Jimmy ratted us out like a chooch.

Noise: What about all the shows in NYC, at Tiswas and Don Hills. Have you enjoyed playing NYC?

Luke: If you want to sum up the band: We spent the last three nights in Aerial Love Feed's catacombic chamber. We slept in their practice space and it was pitch black and cold. We loved every minute of it. That's all we deserve.

Dave: Going to bed at 8 o'clock in the morning, getting up at 4, play a show, partying all night, doing the same for three nights. For some reason, that was fucking sweet. I would do that every night; it's an easy lifestyle.

Noise: Did you bring any girls back with you?

Luke: No. We don't care about girls.

ALCOHOL. NO WEED

Noise: You guys get stoned a lot at rehearsal?

Johnny: We don't smoke weed. No one here has ever bought weed in the life of the band.

Leo: Weed is for people in college who listen to jam rock.

Luke: Weed is for fat people.

Noise: So when you're in the rehearsal space, it's all business?

Moz: No. We drink a lot.

Noise: Rumor has it that you (Moz), though the smallest, are the biggest drinker.

Johnny: I don't know. Doz (Dave) can drink all night and all day.

Dave: Being from New Zealand, it's a social thing and that's all you do. You learn how to drink at 14. It's always cool to do. There's no social stigma. You don't have to hide it.

Johnny: We don't talk about it much. Drinking is a norm. Even when you go 'Dude, I'm not drinking tonight,' that's like a 6 pack.

Leo: If you dropped us off at a party with unlimited beer, and we didn't know anybody there, everyone would fall asleep, it would be me Dave, Moz and Johnny sitting on the kitchen floor polishing off the last beer.

Johnny: There'd always be two to three people sitting with us, wanting to know how it is so bad.

Luke: But the next morning they'd wis - The Noise


The Good North faces right direction


by Rema Rahman
Staff Writer
rahmanre@shu.edu



It seems The Good North has some serious explaining to do. The band does just that on their debut full-length album, "An Explanation" on Primary Voltage records, an independent record label based out of Cambridge, Mass. The Boston indie rock scene has generated yet another young, but potentially great band.

Formed in summer 2001, the band's sound is far beyond its young years together. Though the album has its share of rough edges, their music can be both refreshingly new and their lyrics creatively on point.
The band is made-up of lead singer Luke O'Neil, guitarists Johnny Healey and Mick Taggart, Dave Riley on bass and Mike Morriessey on drums.

"Postcards" kicks off the CD with a catchy hook, plus some pretty heartfelt lyrics. The song is basically about coping with the distance that separates two loved ones. If the Strokes and The Cure got together, the song they would produce would probably sound pretty close to this.

"Saved from the Crash" is a song in which Taggart and Healey display their guitar talents. The dark guitar-laden song is set up against O'Neil's voice echoing in the background. Riley's bass intro is frighteningly familiar to that of Bush's "Comedown."

One of the most original tunes, mostly in lyrics, is "No Hope for the Jobless." In it, O'Neil belts out about how one is forced to work a crappy job to pay off debt. It also has a catchy hook, something not found often on this album.

Later on in the album the pace noticeably picks up with "Visions of You." This song speeds up the pace of the overall tone of the album considerably.

"This is Your Final Chance" has an early U2 ring to it, mostly found in the guitar solo.

The CD's closing track, "Falling Out" is another dark and moody tune. Its depressing and mellow sound adds to the disc's overall dark but truthful tone.

The album lacks only a more polished sound, but their rough edges will be smoothed out as the band is driven to continually to take their sound to the next level.

The band members are fused together by their similar tastes in music and a drive to make it big in the music business. They've come a long way from playing in basements around the Boston area. - The Setonian


An Explanation, the debut full-length from Boston's the Good North, skillfully balances sensitivity and brutality by cross-breeding the sounds of the Smiths, the Cure, and early U2 with a potent blend of aggression and distortion. Although lead singer Luke O'Neil often calls upon a young Bono for vocal guidance and many of Johnny Healey's guitar leads seem to have been written with Disintegration-era Cure on the brain, this release is anything but a dated and poor imitation of Brit-rock past.

"Postcards" opens the album with an incredibly emotional eruption, sincere intensity and a hook-heavy chorus. Taking a minor and tasteful departure from their previous EP, Define Worth Waiting, the Good North experiment with a more optimistic pop sound on this track. A wisely re-recorded version of the song "Define Worth Waiting" follows and helps to set up the richly textured and deep sound that is so prevalent on this release. The song's darkness and artistry is more developed here than on the EP cut.

"No Hope for the Jobless" serves as an inspiring anthem for all of the unfortunate ones that must work in order to pay off their credit cards and other soul-stealing debts. It is arguably one of the most intelligent and effectively crafted condemnations of succumbing to the world of pathetically stale and monotonous office jobs.

The Good North achieve their most confrontational and raucous moment on "This is your Final Chance". Barely two minutes in length, this song is a violent brawl of melody, abusive drums, and extreme vocal prowess.

A similar taste in music was the initial reason that the Good North formed in Boston during the summer of 2001. While they obviously all share a passion for older British material, shards of newer acts like Radiohead, Idlewild, and Oasis poke through much of the material on An Explanation, helping to modernize the band's approach. Producer Matt Squire (Cancer Conspiracy, among others) contains all of the Good North's youthful brashness, enthusiasm, and energy long enough to get it on record and adds the right amount of production quality to create the sound that this album so rightfully deserves.

An Explanation refuses to falter at any point. Even though the Good North have only been a band for less than two years, their EP and full-length prove that they are a remarkably capable band that has a collective understanding of each other, as well as an undeniable amount of devotion and respect towards music.
- Earlash.com


Ten to watch
BY JONATHAN PERRY


THE GOOD NORTH. What would happen if you crossed Joy Division with the Sheila Divine and maybe a smidgen of Boy-era U2? You might get an outfit that sounds something like the Good North: dramatic, anthemic, Anglophilic, but with just enough menace to keep things from getting too cozy.


MISSION OF BURMA. Word on the street is there’s a bunch of upstart kids around town who kick up a ferocious post-punk racket, and who’ve just signed with the über-cool Matador Records. The slice-and-dice rhythmic blare, needle-in-the-red guitars, and feverish pitch of the agitprop vocals on the band’s new disc, OnoffON, sound suspiciously like those old Boston legends who went by the name of Mission of Burma back in the day. Maybe you’ve heard of ’em?


THE RUDDS. Rudds singer John Powhida could give that dude from the Darkness a run for his octave-climbing, falsetto-loving money, and his band have better tunes to boot. Songs about wreckatowes (that’s rockspeak for "record store," kids), hot chicks, cheap tricks, and rocking out with all the young dudes are the order of the day. Call it glam-rock without the silver-lamé space suits. Plus, when’s the last time a singer actually copped to a Daryl Hall fixation?


READ YELLOW. Since when did Amherst kids get so angry? And loud? Oops, we forgot all about Dinosaur Jr., Sebadoh, and the Pixies. Proof positive that scorching, steaming punk with guts, grit, and decibels can happen anywhere — just ask all those people from Minneapolis and DC. This is what anarchy sounds like.


DOWNBEAT 5. Goldilocked, golden-throated singer-guitarist Jen Rassler just might be Boston’s answer to Deborah Harry, but the beer-spilling, trash-rocking riffmeisters Downbeat 5 (featuring Jen’s hubby, Boston rock legend J.J. Rassler, on lead guitar) ain’t no Blondie. And their heart’s not made of glass either. Jack Daniel’s and Marlboros, maybe.


JAKE BRENNAN AND THE CONFIDENCE MEN. Punk-rocker-turned-singer-songwriter Jake Brennan is what you’d call a proverbial chip off the old block, taking a cue from his storyteller-cum-local-legend dad Dennis’s roots-rock playbook, and fashioning rustic tales of heartache and hangovers for a new generation.


LOVELESS. Ex–Expanding Man guitarist Dave Wanamaker’s alt-rock crusaders somehow make tried-and-true arena-worthy choruses, humongous hooks, and power ballads feel like a fresh blast of rock and roll cranking from a vintage boom box on a Saturday night in the mall parking lot of the ’burb you grew up in. Bring your lighters.


THE DOUGLAS FIR. It’s been a few years in the making, but these Anglophilic daydream believers finally dropped their debut album, When This Wears Off, and have carved out a sound all their own around town. Imagine a mash-up of Lloyd Cole and the Commotions and the Church covering the Go-Betweens, and you’ll have a pretty good idea where the Fir are coming from.


THE KITTY KILL. Weaned on Fugazi and Elastica, and sporting spiky punk songs that transcend the same-sex-friendly "queercore" genre, the Kitty Kill have lit up stages as small as a postage stamp and as big as Times Square. Lately, they’ve been doing much more of the latter, so better catch ’em before the Sleater-Kinney comparisons make them as big as they ought to be.


SPOOKIE DALY PRIDE. Okay, we’ll come clean: we’re not big on the whole noodle-dance jam-band thing. But it’s hard to resist a multitasking outfit that mixes everything from horny funk to Dixieland jazz to bubblegum-chewy grooves into its sonic stew. Check out who the Spookies have opened for — Foo Fighters, Kid Rock, Primus, Busta Rhymes, and Leftover Salmon, to name a few — and you begin to understand the crossover appeal of a band that turn their concerts into one bootylicious block party.


THE MODEL SONS. Mild-mannered video-game designers by day, ill-mannered sleaze-metal mercenaries by night, the Model Sons are post-hardcore thrashers with better haircuts — riff-mongering punks blitzkrieging the masses with ungodly noise and keeping the faith that Nirvana’s Bleach will never go out of style.


- Stuff @ Night


At times, The Good North sounds almost as if Thom Yorke had shed his melancholy and decided to form an emo side project. Then again, any super-melodic male singer who draws out his syllables the way Luke O'Neil does might create that impression -- and thankfully, it's only a passing resemblance. However, it is the vocals that set An Explanation apart from the power-chording, tight-changing pack (it sure as hell isn't the hipster-goddess pic on the CD's cover).
This is an album of well-played, appealing pop music from a band that successfully balances catchy hooks and familiar song structures with a modest -- but adequate -- measure of originality. The Good North don't break too much new ground, but they're a long way from stinking up the joint. Emo seems to be one of their primary influences, evident in things like dynamic shifts from relaxed to driving to balls-out rocking, copious use of harmonics ("Visions of You") and the complex interweaving of guitar and bass melodies within songs that are really pretty simple. The vocals, though, come from an even more mainstream place. O'Neil is solely a frontman in the tradition of Bowie or Bono; sure, they might play guitar, but do you give a shit? O'Neil's instrument is his voice, and he's obviously spent quite a bit of time learning it.

The Good North is that rare band that find their niche and settle firmly into it relatively early -- they've only been together two years. There are a lot of reasons they're good. Skilled musicianship, songs that hang well together while remaining distinct from one another and good singing won't guarantee success, but they go a long way.

- Splendid E-Zine


Discography

2002 - Define Worth Waiting EP
2003 - An Explanation LP
2003 - Your New Favorite CD compilation
2004 - Tomorrow Never Happened compilation
2004 - Lonesome Recordings Vol. 1 compilation
2004 - Life Outside Our Walls EP

Photos

Feeling a bit camera shy

Bio

Mixing music, style, and attitude with what The Boston Globe calls “densely ringing electric guitars, grand melodic gestures, and a panoramic sweep of space and sound.” The Good North have taken their cues from old-school Britpop, new-school indie-rock, and a dose of hardcore bravado. The combination has put TGN onto bills with such luminaries as Ted Leo, The Dismemberment Plan, Idlewild, Aerial Love Feed, Grandaddy, Stellastar*, Elefant, Ash, The Walkmen, and The French Kicks.

They rock but aren't heavy, they emote but aren't emo. When they're onstage, they are riveting, when they are offstage, they don't seem to realize it because they are still a show: a continuous, self-referential, ludicrous sideshow of alcohol, cigarettes, cocksure posing, silly banter, and genuine affection for one another No doubt – this is TGN and their new EP, Life Outside our Walls.

The Good North formed in 2001, and have previously released 2002’s Define Worth Wating EP and 2003’s An Explanation LP. TGN have been featured on over 100 college radio stations and commercial stations such as Boston’s WFNX & NYC’s K-Rock.