Cherry Red Album Reviews – May 2014 by Long John



Shall We Take A Trip: The Factory Recordings 1990-1991

Manchester band Northside receive the full reissue treatment at the hands of Cherry Red Records, and Shall We Take A Trip – The Factory Recordings 1990-1991 contains pretty much their entire recording career on Tony Wilson’s Factory Records.  This 2 CD set comprises their top 20 album Chicken Rhythms, a slew of singles including Take 5, My Rising Star and Shall We Take A Trip, plus a handful of radio sessions with Mark Radcliffe on Radio 5.

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Northside may not be the first band that springs to mind when thinking back to the late 1980s and early 1990s period when Manchester bands were combining the influences of 1960s Psychedelia, funk, electronic dance music and shimmering jangly Indie to come up with a sound that came under the moniker and catch all term ‘Baggy’.

However, Northside did enjoy some commercial success and notoriety.  The band scored a sizeable hit with the single Shall We Take A Trip.  The BBC banned the song and unwittingly this ban helped to make the single even more of an illicit curiosity for listeners. LSD is mentioned in the opening 15 seconds of this track and it is easy to see why some people were drawn towards a song that openly endorsed the use of Acid.

Northside must be one of the very few bands to have made it on to Top of the Pops without a single in the top 40 when they performed Take 5 in 1991, and in the same year they released their one and only album, the Ian Broudie produced Chicken Rhythms.  Northside’s career was cut short just as they began work on their second album due in part to the bankruptcy of Factory Records.

After listening to Chicken Rhythms it is hard not to make the obvious musical comparisons with other bands of the period including the Happy Mondays and the Inspiral Carpets, whose pleasing neo psychedelic grooves seemed like a breath of fresh air in 1989-90.  When Chicken Rhythms was released in 1991 the ‘Baggy’ music scene had started to lose some of its appeal with the ever-fickle media, and apparently Northside were one of those that suffered from the critical backlash and became unfortunately tagged as just another ‘Baggy’ band.

However, Northside’s shortcomings become obviously clear within a few minutes of listening to this particular CD.  The trite nature of some of the lyrics and the meaningless phrases suggest that any media backlash that the band suffered for being at the tail end of the ‘Baggy’ era must have been in part due to the lack of lyrical prowess by the band.

The single Take 5 has an annoyingly catchy guitar riff that was surely lifted from Boston’s More Than A Feeling, a staple of American ‘Classic Rock’ radio stations for the past 35 years. Every band is guilty of pilfering musical ideas from elsewhere and passing it off as their own, however, it is the repetitive and limited nature of the lyrics that is the real stumbling block. Northside somehow manage to spend almost the entire 3 minutes of the track repeating ‘You Blown It, I Know It’ and ‘Never Gonna Guess What Time It Is’.

The Single Shall We Take A Trip is by far the most interesting song on the album.  The obvious drug references, intricate guitar playing, combined with the shuffling drum pattern must have made this quite a popular track in Manchester dance clubs in 1990.

Weight Of Air and A Change Is On Its Way demonstrate that the band did have some musical promise but again there is no hiding place for the songs themselves, and the banal nature of the lyrics makes repeated listens quite difficult.

The conclusion is that Northside end up sounding like an insipid version of the Happy Mondays. It is difficult to disagree with the notion that Northside were indeed just another second rate ‘Baggy’ band that set out to exploit the success of their more established and successful peers, and ultimately failed to make the most of their moment in the spotlight. BUY HERE!

Long John

Charming Chap and a new sharp force for Eyeplug, being a toppermost writer with a keen appreciation for things of quality and distinction. A well known face on the London ‘Mod’ Scene but with an open mind and heart. Got a strange interest in Pirates? One to watch out for!

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