Night Drive - Position II - The Singles, Reviewed
Night Drive - Position II - The Singles, Reviewed
Night Drive are a duo that only came to my attention fairly recently. While trying to put together a playlist for my Youtube series ‘The Not-So-Forensic Records Society’, one of their tracks showed up in the recommendations, and after listening I was instantly hooked. They operate within the fairly popular retro avenue of synthwave, but there’s much more than pointless nostalgia at play here, as they offer up moody, nocturnal washes of bass and synthesisers over danceable beats, supplemented by a dramatic sometimes downtrodden, highly catchy vocal presence. But since their debut album in 2017, aside from a few standalone singles, it’s been a little quiet on the musical front. Now though, they’ve re-emerged as a trio, with a brand new EP: a follow up to their debut release called ‘Position II’, coming out on August 4th. So, let’s get stuck into these singles.
Now this is the Night Drive we all know and love. Starting out with a great gothic, post-punky bassline, a classically 80s synth pop drum beat and bright touches of guitars soon enter the picture, all of which of course motors along under a bed of alluring electronic atmospheres, adding another touch of moodiness to proceedings. In addition, there’s also plenty of extra melodic bells and whistles, whether it be the dramatic, almost orchestral synth tones on the chorus, or the variety of extra twinkly melodies the band plays throughout the track to keep things interesting. It’s just an expertly crafted bit of retro sci-fi pop. Vocally, Rodney Connell brings his A-game on here as well. The hugely catchy, hooky qualities of his vocals are offset by a sense of melancholia and yearning throughout that works to great effect, as he also utilises his naturally dramatic vocal timbre to deliver some pretty soaring chorus lines. Admittedly the “woah-oh-oh” bridge could’ve been built out a bit, but I’d say the atmospheres carry it well enough. His lyrics, while not hugely deep, are quite decent and play into the track’s sense of yearning very nicely, as he seems to discusses the phenomenon of wanting to move on and spread his wings in life before his current circumstance, including close friendships and/or relationships turns into a foul stasis, using the image of the sea to represent the happiness and comfort he both seemingly has, and seeks more of somewhere else. It’s not wholly revolutionary, but it’s put across pretty well, and his performance really sells it. The guys have really come back firing on all cylinders here, and so it’s obviously a great single.
Cover Your Eyes
This takes the dark sense of drama we got a glimpse of on ‘Summerwaves’ and just amplifies it further. The otherworldly arpeggios in the intro pair greatly with the pulsing, almost house-style synths and four-on-the-floor kick drum, which itself soon morphs into a punchy disco style beat, with some cool extra percussive textures to go along with it. While there’s still a palpable sense of atmosphere, it’s definitely a bit more of a dark fist pumper, this one, and I’m quite liking it. Then the bridge takes things in a whole other direction, offering up yet more melancholic synth runs, and letting the track’s killer bassline come more to the forefront, which itself is then followed by a pretty cool keyboard solo. As you may have noticed, similarly to ‘Summerwaves’, the amount of extra melodic motifs or little textures they add really keeps the interest high, a lot of which I’ve still yet to mention. Whether it’s the aforementioned synth arpeggios, or shifting bright pads in the intro, the looping, bit crushed keys or morse code bleeps in the verses, or the great, bright, Leftfield-esque keyboard stabs atop the choruses, there’s a lot more going on here than it might seem. Brandon does the best he can to match the despondent vibe of the track with some fittingly dystopian lyrics. Not unlike a track like ‘Drones’, this track concerns itself with an overriding sense of doom in a tense, war-torn world, and this sense of “if one more thing goes wrong, the world could collapse, and if that happens, we’re well and truly in the shit”, and about how people would probably rather distract themselves than face such a grim reality. Again, it’s not revolutionary, dystopian lyrical sentiments seem to be a hot commodity these days, but Rodney sure knows how to use a turn of phrase or two to make it pretty compelling, and of course he has the authority, drama, pathos, and melodic panache to carry it off, letting you know only really Night Drive can do what they do as well as they do, lyrically and musically I reckon. They seem to just be really good at taking fairly obvious ideas e.g. dystopian synth pop, and properly making it their own, which this exemplifies.
So, to put it one way, as far as expectations are concerned, if they deliver songs of the quality of the singles on the rest of the EP, we’ll have one pretty bloody amazing comeback on our hands. One that not only lives up to the high quality level of their previous material, but may also possibly exceed it.