A Northern Chorus
Bitter Hands Resign
I’ve heard the case made many times before that A Northern Chorus are a shoegazer band. I’m here to dispel that myth. There’s no denying the band appropriates characteristics from that wall-of-sound genre, like loud overly distorted guitars and sweetly-sung undecipherable lyrics, but there’s so much more to their overall songwriting. For the most part, the songs on Bitter Hands Resign are approached as prog- or post-rock material. There’s distinctly more focus given to dynamics rather than shoegazer textures. Take the opener, “The Shepherd & The Chauffuer,” for example; there are blazing outbursts of noise peppered throughout, but the song’s strength comes from the mounting tension in the quiet moments when the gentle harmonizing of Stu Livingstone and Alex McMaster’s vocals take the spotlight.
If anything, this album feels like the missing link between Slowdive and Mojave 3. Equal attention is paid to plotting a course through a lonesome and deserted terrestrial sound as well as the heavens. “This Open Heart” treads this line best, with slide guitar and heavily tremoloed finger picking mixing with a loose, dusky rhythm section. The effect is simply gorgeous.
As is the tendancy of some modern prog-rock, there’s a little too much of a Radiohead influence from time to time. “Winterize,” especially, gets bogged down in too many Thom Yorke vocal-isms (slurred lyrics, incessant whining, etc.) These are very minor distractions though, and should certainly not keep anyone away from enjoying one of the better rock albums of 2006.
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