I started writing this opening paragraph about how much like David Bowie the London four-piece Night Engine sound, but then I realised everyone has already done that. About a million times. Including myself about two months ago for a different site. But, as they say, a cliché is only a cliché because it’s true. But then, they would say that. The clichéd bastards.
There is, however, an odd synergy to Night Engine’s growing success and the recent reemergence of the Thin White Duke. Yet the latter’s musical offering upon his return was so dull that no one’s put it on since the release date (unless you have, you weirdo) while the former are a bunch of barnstorming boys with youthful optimism, here to batter you into submission with their ADHD melodies. In the chorus of ‘Worth Your While’ the backing vocals chant: “lift me up, I really want to dance, lift me up, I’ll make it worth your while,” like some sort of disco-flavoured sexual dare; a response to Sister Sledge’s ‘He’s the Greatest Dancer’ perhaps.
Born out of a childhood friendship, the sense of growing up, moving on and getting stronger is apparent throughout the lyrics. Despite titles such as ‘Young and Carefree’, so sweet Taylor Swift could use them, several songs do posses a dark tint. ‘Seventeen’ features the lyrics: “You think that you’re older, that I’ll never be stronger…I have to kill the man and you’re another… ”, indicating a simmering macho aggression towards a faceless aggressor (apparently it’s based on “a 17-year-old killer who has grown up in a criminal environment from which he can’t really escape”).
The adolescent frustration rears its pock-marked face elsewhere too: “Just ‘cause you’re older, doesn’t make you wiser” they declare on ‘Treat me Like A Baby’. These growing pains are off-set with blasts of retro synth and funk influenced bass lines, because when you’re growing up and confused and angry the best therapist is a big speaker with fast music you can dance to blasting out of it. Especially, in Night Engine’s case, if said music has been produced by Nile Rodgers.
Their tunes are energising odes to their musical ancestors, with the likes of INXS and Talking Heads held aloft as golden gods by the band, bringers of pace and entertainment to the blessed among us. There’s no escaping it, Night Engine are a fully-formed, hot-out-the-oven recreation of their influences, but damn do they taste good.
“I just feel restricted, give me a chance,” singer and guitarist Phil McDonnell chimes. It’s OK Phil – you’re going to be getting more than one chance with us…
by Nicholas Burman