Infallibly perfect bands don’t come around every day. But when they do, they leave a trail which is easy to spot.
Look for the closely-guarded mp3, the flurry of knowing emails, the soundcloud that’s been magicked up from nowhere. Listen for the ever-chattering internet whispers. Expect a debut gig in a left-of-centre venue. It will, of course, be an advance sell out. This, we dare to dream to believe, is down to the nebulous notion of ‘kids’ – cool kids, that is, who find out about cool things much sooner than any of us do.
Any 40-somethings in the audience? If they look excited and are close to the stage, they must be proud onlooking dads and uncles. If they’re at the back and they could do with a shave and a haircut, they’ll be your label honcho, agent or hopeful promoter.
Night Engine’s first demos are bloody good. Really bloody good. They promise much: not least because they do not fit in any way into the commonly accepted matrix frame for ‘new British’ bands. The wordiness of Franz, the quirkiness of the Monkeys, the introspection of the Horrors are all missing. Instead, there’s big fun and hard funk – with unapologetic lashings of Bowie, Talking Heads and new-new romance.
Undisputable highlight, both of their internet presence and tonight’s basement bar debut, is ‘I’ll Make It Worth Your While’. It’s a stomper-stonker, in something approaching a Big Apple tradition, with Sly Stone hollers aplenty to fiddle with the bedrock of Scary Monsters-era Bowie sounds.
Fitting, then, that their super-serious-face singer should look as moody as our Dave did in the Elephant Man, complete with Diamond Dogs braces over a Thin White Duke shirt and a slick Man Who Fell To Earth carrot-top do.
The Night Engine stall is laid out very clearly and succinctly: it’s all Secret Life Of Arabia and V-2 Schneider when the short set is going well… and more than a littlr bit Blancmange and Haircut 100 when it’s not.
First gig? These boys don’t seem at all nervous. They don’t look too hungry, either. They’re certainly very good players. Is there industry hoodwinkery at play here? Do Night Engine have a concealed past?
Who knows? And, at this stage, who really cares? This may not have been the infallibly perfect debut we expected, but time and the rumour machine can take care of that. And it WAS a good gig, all told, that stands every chance of being followed up by better things.
Best of all, it was kinda fun. And God knows, hair-cutted hordes of Hoxton, you need a bit of fun right now.