Review Summary: Great neglected summer pop masterpiece.
Despite the fact that the cover of this album is adorned by a lonely scene of a forgotten amusement stand framed by the harsh winter highlands, 'Songs From Northern Britain' is an LP full of the joys of summer. I would use the metaphor of being able to almost hear the birds of spring singing along in tandem with the tracks, except for the fact that the intro for one of the album's singles 'I Don't Want Control Of You' makes it redundant by literally doing it.
As soon as the LP starts with the shiny-happy single 'Start Again', you're on a musical road-trip to sun drenched apple orchards and quiet lake side groves surrounded by jangley guitars and layered harmonies. The next song 'Ain't That Enough' actually has the lyrics "Here comes the sunrise / Ain't that enough / Summer in the city / Summer in the city." To carry on the point of the sunniness of this record is perhaps overkill, but there is a song later on the album entitled 'Winter', which, somewhat confusingly, is a tale of escaping to the pristine beauty of the forest ("Skys are forever clear / road never made it here /forest so deep and green / like nothing we've ever seen") and is one of the least winter sounding songs you're ever likely to hear.
Being 'happy' does not, of course, have any bearing on the quality of albums. But rest assured that 'Songs From Northern Britain' excels in the quality department too. Aside from the aforementioned tracks, there are a couple more truly classic tunes waiting in the wings. 'Take The Long Way Round' has a bouncing punk riff that propels it onward (a riff that was stolen by Idlewild for 'As If I Hadn't Slept') and once again has a delightful feel of travel and summer coursing through it's lyricism ("Sometimes you look for inspiration / Sometimes you underline destinations"). The album's highlight is the utterly beautiful electro-acoustic ballad 'Planets', which is one of the best folk-rock tunes I've ever heard and once again ("We're moving out of the city / And into the highlands / We'll pack up the kids / and look for a home") is full the joys of travel.
There isn't much in the way of negative things to say about this album. Sure... it isn't original by any means, sticking very much dead center of what is expected from the folk-rock genre. There's even the odd forgettable tune here and there (although they are all universally pleasant). But by and large, 'Songs From Northern Britain' doesn't have anything wrong with it and the more you spin it, the deeper it digs it's claws in.
In conclusion, I love this album. I would go so far as to say it's one of my favorite records for a sunny day. It's overlooked and underrated and a true lost gem if ever there was one.