The Nightjars - Towards Light
This electrifying debut, seemingly out of nowhere, is a living, breathing reminder of what alternative guitar music can, and should, be. The Nightjars are from Manchester but are not, thank god, A Manchester Band. You will find little of the obsession with flaccid dance rhythms that characterised Madchester’s lad rock here. The Nightjars are a decidedly serious concern and their sound is a cynic’s delight, all reedy guitar precision and tricksy percussion. The seven songs here are peppered with levels of detail and invention so often avoided. The way, for example, ‘Second Sight’ slips from lithe arpeggio to choppy riffing to a variation on step one and shows a fleet-of-foot interplay that recalls the trik-trak of early Throwing Muses. I don’t get much more complimentary than that. In fact, that very band come to mind again on album high spot ‘No Kicks’, which offers up similarly dizzying guitar duelling (Hey - Television rather than The Eagles, you understand) and has the daring to throw in a clutch of stirring tempo changes. Lyrically, vocalist Ollie Wright’s approach fits his music beautifully, with an almost poetic minimalism to the fore. Lost souls, romantic reflection, upright, energised statements of intent. Literate and skewed, these are, for once, words of worth.
And credit too for the playing. Throughout, ‘Towards Light’ presents itself thrillingly unadorned, free of studio ornamentation or trickery. Wright’s vocals, deep, warm and slightly reminiscent of a young Roddy Frame, remind you know good it is every now and then to hear an alternative guitar band with a proper ****ing singer. Kudos for that and also to Dan Sims and Phil Arnold for an almost dogmatic approach to their guitars, and to drummer Seamus O’Haven whose playing is deft but vigorous. You will form your own reference points but, again, their home town’s music appears, to these ears, to have had little influence here. I find myself reminded at times of 1980s romantic miserablists like The Sound or The Comsat Angels. ‘Towards Light’ is a profoundly artful enterprise.
All in, The Nightjars delight on just about every level. To a degree, it’s a crying shame that a record this focused, possessed of such steely resolve, and dismissive of the worst habits of indie careerists, sounds so damn weird. At a mere 21 minutes, a fact as fitting as it is frustrating, its very singular approach reminds you that all is not lost. The Nightjars sing.