Mr North – Fear and Desire
While new wave and post-punk are plundered by myriad bands of the moment, and hard rockers return to the classic rock songbook for ideas, Mrnorth continue to make their own distinctive way down a quite different path. Fear & Desire is their second full-length, following hot on the heels of autumn 2006’s Sleeping Dogs five-song EP.
That set’s title track is the new album’s fulcrum, a turning point between the more adventurous music that follows and the purer rock offerings that precede it. Although pure is a relative term for a band who rock hard while in a decidedly alt rock and at times new wave mode. The superb “Love Is…” is a great case in point, where ringing guitars à la U2 play off a Nirvana-laced grungy sound. “For the Cheater & the Cheated,” in contrast, swings between classic rock and doomy, atmospheric gloom rock.
But nothing ever stands still in Mrnorth’s world, as the band plow hard rock into pop, punk edges into all their songs, and The Edge’s signature chiming guitar into virtually every track. The haunting “Dogs” and “Overture Reprise” help the set shift gears, the latter number a variation on the majestic, opening instrumental “Overture.” “Reprise” itself sets the stage for the sweeping, yearning “For the Moment,” the introspective “So Long, Love,” and the glorious “Where No One,” a song Bono only wishes he had written. Being Irish born, it’s no surprise that the band are beholden to U2, their majestic sound, Bono’s vocal styling, and those ringing guitar chords all echo through this set. But as the jagged rhythm of “In the Country” and the Led Zeppelin laced “Rope” prove, Ireland’s richest and most famous weren’t the band’s sole influence.
By combining the epic style of U2 with grunge, hard rock, alt-rock, punk, and even a dollop of goth rock, Mrnorth have created a distinctive sound far removed from the rest of the modern pack. The density of this album, wonderfully thickened by the excellent production, the grandiose feel of so many of the songs, the excellent arrangements, the blistering dynamics, and the superb musical and vocal performances throughout all paint this set with greatness.
An epic album, a timeless set, and a record that smacks of masterpiece.