Teeside alt-rockers Nice Guy are back with a really fresh-sounding, engaging and immediate new single, Tonight. This is a really interesting one, a track which brings you on a beautiful journey: your starting point is a deceptively straightforward, relatively slow-paced indie-rock track; your destination is a long, thrilling guitar solo and a sustained Hammond organ chord. Everything that happens between start and finish is exciting and quite subtle in places.
The song opens with a relatively simple guitar lick, based around just a few notes. This grabs your attention – perhaps not in the same way as a crashing drum intro or heavier guitar riff – but it grabs it all the same. This opening is a kind of shadow of the track to come – an opening motif – which takes you gradually into the song. With each repetition of that simple opening theme, an extra layer is introduced, allowing the song to build really subtly. It’s a build of intensity but also of complexity.
The more you listen, the more you appreciate how carefully this has been done; it’s a masterpiece of control. The band aren’t rushing things, but letting the song do the work and emerge when it’s good and ready. The verses aren’t epic but are just long enough, biding their time, steadily progressing. That makes the chorus, which doesn’t arrive for the first time until a minute-and-a-half in, all the more satisfying.
First, though, there’s a brief pre-chorus, setting the scene. “It’s not giving up, it’s moving on …” sings Michael McCluskey, before a lovely little slow down, a pause on the cusp, and then –
“Darling all the lies,
all the awful silences,
it all stops tonight.
The changing of your mind,
there’s no point in trying now,
it all stops tonight.”
Tonight is a song which ponders that feeling of knowing when to let go – knowing when a relationship has run its course and needs to be allowed to slip away. In the band’s words, it’s “about reaching that breaking point in a relationship that’s gone bad and how there’s no shame in calling time on a fight you don’t need to have.”
That’s a difficult moment for anyone to go through, and a life experience involving very strong emotions. These emotions are reflected really well in the delivery of those honest vocals, and the unleashing of an awesome solo from lead guitarist Josh Atkinson to round out the song.
I particularly like the lo-fi feel which infuses the production of Tonight. There’s a kind of distance to it – an element of the sound of the room being captured. You hear that on the drum track in particular, where you can almost smell the metal of the hi-hat and feel the vibrations coming off the snare. When Matt Bowen unleashes the crashing cymbals and pounding toms in the chorus it sounds like you’re right down the front, living it all live. And then there’s the treatment of Michael’s vocals – no fuss, almost no effects. This approach perhaps goes against the grain of a lot of recent releases, which have quite a close and polished feel, taking advantage of the ultra high quality which today’s technology can bring. But the lo-fi approach feels so right here. It gives this song huge atmosphere and a really nice warmth and realism.
Nice Guy have recently taken on new management and say they’re preparing for gigs outside of their local area, as well recording more new music for release over the next few months. The band are:
Michael McCluskey: Lead Vocals, Guitar
Josh Atkinson: Lead Guitar, Backing Vocals
Matt Bowen: Drums
Chris Pittam: Bass
Patrick Oliver: Keyboards
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Words by Phil Taylor