Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Album Review: Ride The Storm by Good Friend (by Robyn Pierce)

A little while ago, Colin and Emma saw Good Friend open for Nothington at a show in Camden and were thoroughly impressed with their performance. It makes sense that Good Friend would play alongside Nothington, as both bands released their latest albums on Red Scare Industries, although Ride the Storm came out a little earlier at the end of November last year (on Black Friday, no less). Much like the glowing review Colin gave Good Friend after he saw them live, I was immediately impressed with this band. Good Friend are based in Newcastle but originally hail from Belfast, and Adam Carroll’s delectable Irish accent is clearly discernable on the record. He’s joined by Andy Reid and Leon Connolly. I’m not sure if it’s the combination of Carroll’s accent with the nautical album art and the notion of ‘Riding the Storm’, but this album gave me some serious pirate vibes - stirring up ideas of rebellious comradery and raucous partying that are generally associate with pirates. I may be alone in this (one of my ancestors was an Irish buccaneer, so I may be more sensitive to this than others), but there’s definitely some whiskey-soaked Irish flair happening on Ride the Storm.

The album opens with some slow, metallic distortion reverberating out like electrified water dripping down into an aluminium-bottomed boat, but soon fires up with some well-paced drumming and warm guitar. ‘Rock Bottom Revival’ is a fantastic song; its catchy chorus line of ‘I found faith on the radio’ is powerful and sincere, summing up the song’s focus on renewing one’s faith in humanity through music, bands, friends and community. There are a few synths brought into this song that I really wasn’t expecting, but which work here to create a fuller-bodied power pop sound. Towards the end, the song slows down to a poignant reflection on ‘those songs’ and the shared times they reflect. It then builds up beautifully with a stirring bridge, singing out ‘Hold me tightly, we arrive at the river. The water’s cold, but we’ll never surrender’. I know I’ve gone on quite a lot about this song, but it’s a really well-crafted track that immediately sweeps you up in the stormy pop punk of Good Friend.

The next song, ‘D.L.B.’, is a little more angsty and gritty. It reminds me of The Matches, but a more sophisticated version of that sound, with the self-deprecating chorus line of ‘Honestly, I’m a disaster, a dirty little bastard’. This line, of course, got firmly stuck in my head so that I found myself muttering ‘I’m a dirty little bastard’ under my breath while waiting in line at the supermarket. I got some great looks from moms doing their weekend shopping. The third track, ‘Overloading the Limiter’, brings back the energy of the album’s opener but plays with the contrast between quieter verses and a more raucous chorus. Then, ‘The Curious Case of Hy-Brasil’ opens with the sound of waves crashing and I’m getting all of those at-sea, pirate-drinking-song feels. There’s definitely a nautical theme being brought in again here with the lines ‘Would you be my anchor? Would you force me home? When the lights go down, I’ll cross this desolate shore’. This song also has some really great drumming and vocal work. ‘The Return of Fion and Fianna’ begins with a great looped riff that’s a little hypnotic, bounds through a few soaring choruses, and ends with a gutsy breakdown. ‘Curse the Name’ is a slower, heavier track where Adam can really show off his vocal talents. Actually, the vocals on this entire album are outstanding – switching between gravelly and smoother singing and hitting a wide vocal range. Not that any of the musicianship in Good Friend seems to be lacking, but I was continually impressed by Adam’s singing while listening to Ride the Storm.

‘Young Blood’ is my runaway favourite track from this record. It begins with some Matthew McConaughey-esque woah ohs that build into an upbeat song about ‘going wrong in all the right ways’. Leon’s drumming really makes this song, but I couldn’t tell you any specific reason why I immediately liked ‘Young Blood’ so much. It just has a great energy that feels like being blown free on the high seas. ‘Daniel O’D and the Moonshiners’ sounds like it could be an Irish band in its own right. Here, Leon shows off his drumming prowess again in a short and energetic song that issues a ‘call to arms’ to fight the feeling of ‘falling apart’. Before the band give out their ‘Irish Goodbyes’, ‘Bar Flies’ offers an acoustic song with some delicate layering of sounds (are those more synths I hear?) The effect of this is a really sweet, folksy ditty about the misfits who find homeliness in hanging out at their hometown bar. The last song on Ride the Storm, much like the first, begins with some slow reverb and the line ‘If you wanna drink whiskey, you’d best keep up’ (and I think we all know that these Irish lads aren’t kidding around when it comes to whiskey drinking). ‘Irish Goodbyes’ soon picks up and the album ends quite powerfully with pounding drums and soaring vocals.

Throughout the entire album, it felt like Good Friend reminded me a little of other bands. I’ve mentioned The Matches, and at times I also thought of Alkaline Trio, but the band that Good Friend most reminds me of is Direct Hit. However, while Good Friend are putting out edgy, well-crafted pop punk that does bear some resemblance to these bands, they also have a very distinctive flavour that smacks of salt water, whiskey and adventure. Ride the Storm packs a lot of power and energy; if the guys from Good Friend bring even a tenth of that energy to their live shows, I can see why Colin and Emma were really blown away by their performance. This is definitely a band that everyone should check out.

Stream and download Ride The Storm here: https://goodfriend.bandcamp.com/album/ride-the-storm

Like Good Friend here: https://www.facebook.com/goodfriendofficial/

This review was written by Robyn Pierce.