Northcote - Hope Is Made of Steel (Cover Artwork)


Hope Is Made of Steel (2015)

Black Box Recordings

Hope has a more immediate energy to it than the band's previous releases. Perhaps, this is due to the fact that these tunes seem more informed by ‘70s rock than country or folk. The ten tracks on Hope achieve a kind of Springsteen-lite vibe (not for nothing, on a recently-released EP, Northcote covers Springsteen’s “Radio Nowhere”): Goud’s songs don’t sound like the Boss per se, but lyrically they, like Springsteen, concentrate on characters searching for redemption, going on late-night drives, leaving dead-end towns for something bigger, or summoning the dogged determination to keep on going amidst life’s challenges. Goud fronted the Christian post-hardcore band Means for a long time, and I don’t know whether he still comes at music from a fundamentally religious standpoint or not, but the songs on this record display little preoccupation with religious themes. The lyrics aren’t revelatory, they’re positive and inspirational, and at times they come off a bit corny. Still, they’re heartfelt and Goud’s rough-hewn, earnest delivery sells them.

If you don’t like that style; you won’t like this album, if you do, you likely will – it’s about that simple. Musically, these tracks are all pretty mid-tempo, with the exceptions being the slow-burn of the Chuck Ragan-assisted opener “This is Our Time,” the affecting countrified ballad “Leaving Wyoming,” and the nostalgia-tinged closer “Your Rock and Roll.”

Goud is backed here by a full band and, on Hope, Northcote has achieved a bigger, more polished sound than on any of their previous releases.

Hope doesn’t reinvent any wheels, but I don’t think that’s what Goud was trying to do with this record anyway. Instead, he and the rest of Northcote have made a well-crafted, straightforward rock album that looks like it’s raising Goud’s profile, if Spotify is any indication – in the relatively short time since Hope dropped, “You Could Never Let Me Down” has gotten almost 400,000 plays. If this record is the one that goes down as Goud’s breakthrough, hopefully that’ll mean he can tour with a live band more consistently, because it would be great to see these songs get the full live treatment.