Album Review: Northbound – Death of a Slug

If the album title ‘Death of a Slug’ sounds familiar, you’re not imaging things. You see, this is a re-recorded version of Northbound’s 2014 album – and it’s a very different beast to the previous one, featuring two new songs and a whole host of re-worked music, including full band versions of five songs which were originally recorded acoustically. If you’re already a fan, then such thoroughness is sure to leave you salivating.

Hailing from Boca Raton, Florida, Northbound, AKA Jonothan Fraser spent a decade honing his craft before releasing music under the name Northbound in 2012. Willing to play and record both acoustically and with a full band meant Fraser’s been prolific in terms of shows and recording, and this re-recorded version of ‘Death of a Slug’ represents the culmination of all of this work.

So it’s something of a surprise to learn that it’s all a bit flat. With such a pedigree and work ethic I expected so much more, yet Northbound is adding very little new or exciting to the over-saturated emo revival/pop-punk scene.

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And things don’t get off to the best possible start. Opener ‘Lucky Sentimental’ sounds like a Sum 41 B-side, and as I found the Canadian oiks annoying the first time around, it means Northbound are facing an uphill struggle from the off. Fortunately, ‘Leech’ and ‘Everyone But Me’ are much better. Perky, preppy and definitely not stuck in late 90’s timewarp they’re enjoyable, heartfelt uptempo pop-punk cuts that show Fraser at his best.

‘6 am Beer’, however, is something of a trial, not least of all for the horrible pronunciation of countless words throughout. Phraseology isn’t something that usually bothers me, but it’s really noticeable and quite jarring. It certainly doesn’t seem natural and sounds forced. I guess if you’re 15 and you like sneering, nasal vocals because they sound punk then you might enjoy it, but I like to hear authentic voices so this really doesn’t do it for me. It’s a similar story throughout ‘Death of a Slug’, but never so noticeable as on ‘6 am Beer’.

The one thing that the first third of the album has going for it is that it is an enjoyable romp, with the songs kept short and punchy. No such joy on ‘The Effort Is Never Worth The Outcome’, which is entirely forgettable, while ‘Actor’, despite being blighted by yet more horrible phraseology, is probably the best constructed song on the record.

The second half of the record follows a similar pattern than the first. The pop-punk songs sound great ( ‘Kiss’ in particular is stellar), the phraseology makes me want to cringe in places and the torch songs are entirely forgettable.

It all means ‘Death of a Slug’ is a messy, inconsistent album, with some real highlights and some horrible low points. If I think back 15 years, I’d have bought anything off certain labels, regardless of the quality. Sometimes you struck gold, others I’d only listen to once or twice, only to stick them at the back of the CD rack and forget all about them. Northbound would sit in this latter group. It means, that ‘Death of a Slug’ is not great, it’s not terrible, it just is. And when an album promises so much, that’s sometimes the worst thing.

2.5/5

‘Death of a Slug’ by Northbound is out on 30 June on Animal Style Records

Northbound links:
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Words by Rob Mair (@BobNightMair)

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