When I reviewed North Elementary’s last effort, the 17-minute EP Soft Couch Tremolo, I complained that I really wanted it to go on for twice as long, so with the arrival of the 34-minute Honcho Poncho, I consider myself heard, paid-attention-to, and um y’know, “respected.” Yes, I do.
But I got sick of it halfway through.
No, not really.
What you get on this album is much like what you got on Soft Couch Tremolo, except with a less polished sound, like they only used two grades of sandpaper instead of that third, really fine, one at the end that makes the wood unbearably soft. The still-a-little-rough-around-the-edges tone gives the album a looser, more laid-back feel, but don’t mistake that for sloppiness. There’s a mix of big riff and pretty melody, and on two songs, a singer who sounds a little like Echo and the Bunnymen. There’s plenty of psychedlicky guitar and piano, like on the aching and slowish “House Your Home” and there’s also some organ playing that dips its mood toward Question Mark and the Mysterians, and that’s a way out thing to make you happy.
Two of North Elementary’s neatest tricks are busting big riffs out of pretty melodies, or disassembling big riffs into pretty melodies, and they do those things all over the place on this album, turning meditations into near-anthems, and cutting the rockers down to size before they get too big for their britches. But then sometimes they do just straight-up rock out—it’s not like these songs are following a pattern that gets so deep it becomes a rut. That a band balances these different weights while also sounding like they’re having a swell time is testament to the songwriting, the musicians and the recording, and it’s all enough reason to get your butt to the internet to buy yourself a copy. The album comes on like the kind of summer rainstorm you can run around in, and it goes out like that storm just moseying toward the distant horizon before dropping off.
It’s only eight bucks on vinyl, and five for the CD. Your money should have to work a little harder for this kind of music, but it doesn’t. Lucky you.