Influenced by the shadowy, dark pop majesty of Queens of the Stone Age and the downright possessed guitar work of Jack White, North by North have sweated it out in basements and clubs over the last six years, working up to just what Something Wicked turns out to be: a spastic, yet finely-honed journey to where garage rock, 70's psych and arena anthems meet. Once there, guitarist/vocalist Nate Girard, keyboardist/vocalist Kendra Blank and drummer Dylan Andrews sound completely at home, taking the listener through brave, literate tales of mystery that are painted with frantic guitar, whirring organ and heart-pounding rhythms.
For as much of a freight train as Something Wicked sounds like from the get-go (with the creepy half-minute warning shot of "Run," giving way to the blistering "Burn It Down"), Girard points out how meticulous the band was in plotting their course while recording primary tracks at Chicago’s Minbal Studios:
"We went into the studio knowing that we were on a budget so we approached the recording process with a lot of premeditation regarding what each song would need in terms of different keyboards, vocal/guitar/drum effects, and arrangements. The goal was to be as open-minded as possible, to track the basic elements, and then experiment with different instrumentation and gear than what we normally use. We tracked Rhodes, Wurlitzer, ran Kendra's bass keyboard through a vintage Ampeg tube amp... all to get the highest production quality out of our time."
Girard's soaring solos, Blank's haunting coos and the sturdy backbone of Andrews' percussion are jaw dropping, perhaps most when in an eerie, mid-tempo strut, like on Something Wicked standouts "Soft Soul" or the crushing "Her Name Was Vengeance." And the sinister music only adds to Girard's book-smart wordplay and pointed delivery. "I love songs that tell a story," he admits, "and because of that, many of my songs are my own creative spin on some of my favorite short stories by Ray Bradbury." The swampy stomp of "Pitter Patter," for instance, is a re-telling of Bradbury's short story Small Assassin, and the propulsive "Catacombs" (which opens with ominous footsteps) is a different take on Next In Line. The album's title also is a nod to Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes, which itself was an homage to Shakespeare's Macbeth.
Download: North By North