There can be no denying that “Up North” is the work of a fully matured band. Down to its most diminutive detail, the album revels in the kind of art-rock pageantry that many bands are only capable of fumbling with: elaborate, symmetry-obsessed musical conceits, a romantic mythos inspired by everything that life has to offer both positively and negatively, and numerous musical allusions to a retro-era culture, all coinciding with the band’s baroque guitar-driven, alternative rock expressions, inspired from acid-rock influences.
On paper, it reads like a mess, but the near-mystical, psychedelic and sprawling “Up North” uncovers a soaring vision of a band comfortably in its element. Maybe if Jim Morrison and the Doors were still around today, they would be able to make an album that sounded something like the one Dean Wake just made here.
This album has both commercial and artistic cred locked into its DNA. Eleven songs in all, some are amazing in their complexity, others in their simplicity; gritty rock, soft melodies, and fleshed-out instrumental arrangements abound. Daringly diverse and compellingly grand, the album develops its genre in strides – track by track – achieving sublime occasions of beauty and depth, while never toeing the line of self-indulgence.
“Up North” moves with quickness and controlled pace, but stops suddenly and often for softer tracks like “Early Autumn Day” and “Far Away”, or a noisy ballad such as “Whale Hunting”. Dean Wake works both ends of the alt rock spectrum equally well.
The band’s catchier side resides mostly on the mid-tempo tracks like “Two Crows”, Up North” and “Leopard”. While they have a fist-shaking, foot-stomping song, in the album closer, “Dead End”. The musical talent on the album is top notch for alt-rock.
Thomas Junker (Vocals, Guitar), Matthias Junker (Guitar), Roland Weiss (Bass), and Janosch Lehmann (Drums), maintain their focus on the music, and their talents are spotted at several points as they tap into the visceral nature of alternative rock, as well as show its humanity in the quiet often understated moments.
While Dean Wake lingers below the surface, it has sufficient quality to qualify them as a band on the verge, one whose name can be dropped in any conversation wherever and indeed whenever hipper creative ensembles are mentioned.
Indeed, their sound provides an intriguing combination of melody and controlled mayhem, while their songs soar on the strength of both steady propulsion and a jangly, percolating pulse that lends itself well to the band’s confident and edgy disposition. Tone and tempo shifts quite dramatically, and repeated listens are definitely called for, as “Up North” only gets better each and every time you press play!