When choosing which singles to review, it’s more than a little tempting to pick those that are rather good or conversely, rather awful. It’s just as easy to lampoon the dire as it is to wax lyrical about tunes that have a certain magical something about them. However, Californian three piece Great Northern might have come up with a tune that could frankly, be either.
First the bad. The single ‘Houses’ is bog-standard, American, guitar-driven rock. It might start fantastically with a gothic, bass-thumping intro which wouldn’t sound out of place on a Depeche Mode or Red Lorry Yellow Lorry record, but it descends quickly from there. Enter doubled up vocals (female if you’re asking) accompanied by that annoying call and response cliché that sounds like someone singing through a bloody telephone. Half a minute later, in booms the chorus confirming, like every pop song from America for the last decade, that it’s dripping in over-production. I swear this could be a Kelly Clarkson record.
In the words of their myspace they sound like “your crazy uncle locked in a room with a robot and a marathon runner”. Right. The thing is, to me this record sounds like the closing track of an American teen drama played by a prom band; I can imagine Lindsay Lohan miming to the “it’s not real, it’s not real” chorus. Perhaps then, it’s no surprise that the driving force behind the band is former ‘30 Seconds From Mars’ guitarist Solon Bixler.
So the good? Well, this single should be awful but it isn’t. Somewhere along the line it manages to draw you in against your will; the poppy chorus is almost hypnotic. The phrase “guilty pleasure” was coined in music to describe songs like this. It’s a bit like Nickelback’s ‘How You Remind Me': Overblown, over-polished nonsense that you can’t help but enjoy. In fairness, from what I’ve heard, this is the most out and out formulaic tune ‘Great Northern’ have, perhaps illustrating they are a band worth investigating after all.
Nonetheless, does this single break any boundaries? No. Is it cliché ridden and obvious? Yes. But is it good? Well, probably.