Recorded in March and April 2004 at O’Brien’s Southern Tracks Studio in Atlanta, the album marks an astonishing leap forward, reflecting the young band’s amazing journey from a high school music room in Leeds to the world stage. Songs such as the pyrotechnic title track and the shimmering “Guide” find the Music refining their distinctive meld of deep dance-inspired grooves and propulsive psych-rock riffing, integrating a new concentration on traditional songcraft and potent lyricism.
“We were a little more focused on this record,” singer Robert Harvey says. “It’s good, we get to show people that we can actually write songs. I think the main criticism of our first album was that we didn’t have enough ‘songs.’ They were more groove-based things. But people forget, we were just 18 or 19 years old, we just liked grooving and getting fucked up. Now we’re a couple of years older and we’ve got other things in mind.”
Celebrated by the Los Angeles Times for “a grand sound that mixes Zeppelin, Queen and U2 into an electronics-spiked sonic storm,” the Music first took flight in late 1999, when the teenaged Harvey, guitarist Adam Nutter, bassist Stuart Coleman, and drummer Phil Jordan came together with a goal of blending rock, soul, funk, dub, and electro to create something both uplifting and original. Over the next years, the Music developed a reputation as a truly innovative combo, known for their awe-inspiring, unpredictable live performances. In 2001, their first single, “Take This Long Road And Walk It,” was released by the influential Fierce Panda label to unanimous acclaim, followed the next year by an equally praised eponymous debut album.
Fuelled by a wave of coast-to-coast airplay and a bounty of rave reviews, “THE MUSIC” burst onto the American charts upon its February 2003 release, coming in at #4 on Billboard’s “Heatseekers” ranking of new and developing artists. The foursome headlined a number of sold-out North American dates, along with special guest performances supporting Coldplay and the Vines. Rightly acclaimed for their explosive live shows, the Music appeared on such network TV programs as CBS’ Late Show With David Letterman and NBC’s Later With Carson Daly.
Upon their return to their native Leeds, the Music took a brief respite from rock ‘n’ roll, then quickly got together to begin woodshedding material for their sophomore record. Kicking off with a series of riffs and grooves created while on tour, the band soon had a fistful of strong musical ideas to bring into the studio. The next step was deciding upon a producer to assist them in their quest.
“We were thinking about working with a more dance-oriented producer,” Harvey says, “but when Brendan O’Brien’s name came up, we were all like, ‘Well, yeah!’ We’re not necessarily fans of the bands he’s worked with, but the sheer power of the records he’s done is just unbelievable. We wanted that kind of power on our record.”
O’Brien trekked to the UK to see the Music in their natural environment – kicking out the jams onstage. Enthused by what he’d heard, the producer invited the band to team up with him in his Atlanta homebase, Southern Tracks Studio.
“We had our hearts set on making the record in England,” Harvey says, “but Brendan explained that he did his best work in his own studio. We wanted the best possible results we could get, so if it meant going to Atlanta, we were cool with it.”
While stationed in Atlanta, the Music devoted themselves to their project, spending the majority of their time hard at work crafting and concocting the material that would make up “WELCOME TO THE NORTH.”
“We’re constantly jamming out,” Harvey says. “While Brendan and the rest of the team were busy doing something else, we’d all get in a room and play, getting ideas together. Then we’d say, ‘This is too good to waste, let’s get it down now.’ As a result, this is a true representation of what we are as a band.”
From the opening statement of ‘Welcome To The North” to the album-closing “Open Your Mind,” “WELCOME TO THE NORTH” has all the twists and turns of a journey down a long road, not unlike the remarkable ride taken by the Music over the past two years. Intricate and increasingly mature in their vision, songs such as the blistering “Cessation” and the turbulent “Freedom Fighters” represent a band whose artistic worldview has grown by incredible leaps and bounds.
“You grow up in a sheltered world,” Harvey says, “then all of a sudden, you become 20 or 21, and it’s like someone taking the roof off and you’re exposed to the harsh realities of the world. There’s a lot of coming to terms with that on the album. ’Welcome To The North’ sounds like kind of a small-minded statement in and of itself, but it’s really about breaking free. That’s basically what the whole album is about – it’s about becoming universal.”
Driven by that humanitarian ideal, the Music have created a second record that dares to dream, a brave and beautiful work that yearns to move and motivate all who come into its path. “WELCOME TO THE NORTH” amply demonstrates the Music’s transcendent power to shake up the world.
“Music nowadays, it’s grown a bit stale,” Harvey says. “We wanted to do something that made people feel good. We want to reach a lot of people. We don’t want to be just something underground. We want to touch a lot of different people with this record.”