The Middlenight Men – Issue #2 Review

it's the sound of a songwriter and a band following their hearts, letting the songs, rather than gimmicks, grab your attention

Genre: Pop Rock

Label: Middlenight Records

Release Date: April 12 2024

Members: 

  • Nick Hughes 
  • Leon Cave
  • Heidi Cotton
  • Hannah Grimes
  • Andy Brook
  • Liz Mitchell
  • Andy Watts
  • Joe Lanigan

Additional characters: 

Andrew Mewse, Ben Marsden, Cat Totman, Dave Draper, Gareth Baddeley, James Arter, Jason Perry, Jess Price, Jon Tarbard, Judit Pollock, Louis Dunham, Sarah Parkins, Tim Croydon, Tony The Dog.

Track listing

The Middlenight Men Theme

Fighting Skyler

Bruno

Nightlines,

Living In The Heart Of Hell

The Fear

The Machine

Sirens

The Kids We Want To Be

Best Day Of Our Lives

The Longest Goodbye

 

Over recent years, Nick Hughes has become one of the busiest men in the UK rock scene, with spots variously on guitar, bass and trumpet for the likes of The Role Models, Terrorvision, The Yo-Yos, and Duncan Reid and the Bigheads. He holds down a regular day job while also passing himself off as bassist Mikey (No-)Way at 80-odd gigs a year in his remarkably successful (and amazingly named) My Chemical Romance tribute band The Black Charade. It’s a genuine wonder then that he’s managed to not only write songs, but also assemble The Middlenight Men to play them, record one live and two studio albums, play more gigs and festivals, and support The Wildhearts and Terrorvision on tour. Still, somehow he’s managed it, and we have here the follow up to The Middlenight Men’s 2021 comic book-colourful pop-rock barnstormer ‘Issue #1’, the unsurprisingly named ‘Issue #2’.

Appropriately named opener and lead single ‘The Middlenight Men Theme‘ wastes no time in continuing where Issue #1 left off. Setting its stall with a catchy chorus and super crunchy guitars, it describes the not-even-fictionalised origin story of the band, starting with schoolboy dreams of forming a cartoon superhero rock band and saving the planet. While some great backing singers have always been a big part of the Middlenight Men sound, it’s great to hear one of the girls step forward to show what they can do with a huge vocal lead out.

The big female voices continue with the rapid fire semi-rapped duet ‘Fighting Skyler’, and a trio of similarly upbeat rockers follows, including the Wildhearts-like multi-riffed ‘Bruno’, ripe for well-oiled crowds to sing along to. However, rather than playing it safe and continuing in a similar vein for the rest of the album, things take a turn with the modern almost-country rock of ‘Living In The Heart of Hell‘, a slick and beautiful ballad that would easily fit on rotation on US rock radio alongside the likes of Blackberry Smoke or Alter Bridge.

Other unexpected, but welcome, tracks include the crazy slurred-vocal stomp of ‘The Machine‘, and ‘Sirens‘, that somehow channels both Primal Scream’s ‘Jailbird’ riffing and soaring Gary Numan synth-like sounds, coupling them with delay-drenched vocals for a groove that would have been huge in Britpop/Indie clubs of the late 90s.

While guitarist Andy Brook, who is no slouch behind the desk himself, produced the debut, commitments on the road as Quo legend Francis Rossi’s songs and words show wingman mean that production for this effort has been outsourced to Jason Perry of pop-punks ‘A’. He’s helped translate Nick’s vision perfectly, with some great guitar tones and a light-touch approach that has maintained the live-sounding energy and cohesion of a real band. Horns are less prominent on this outing, but the bass and backing singers have been given more space, making the whole sound much bigger – there’s even some beautifully arranged strings on the introspective ‘The Kids We Want To Be’ and the closing track… Perhaps the biggest and most welcome surprise though is Nick’s singing. Whilst his efforts in Issue 1 were perfectly competent, in places they reflected the sound of a sideman forcing himself out into the limelight. It’s a far different story here; the now-bona fide frontman has gained a huge amount of confidence, sounding comfortable and really breathing life into his songs.

Issue #2 sees the band grow far more than a DIY band with such a short life has any right to, with a maturity in production, arrangement and performance that is a testament to the pedigree and experience of everyone involved. Whilst the album covers a wider variety of musical styles than the straight ahead pop-rock blast of the debut, nothing feels out of place and it’s all done with huge sincerity – a nod to some genuine influences, rather than mere pastiche. This doesn’t feel like an album that is trying to prove anything or jump on any stylistic bandwagon; it’s just the sound of a songwriter and a band following their hearts, making the music that they want to and letting the songs, rather than gimmicks, grab your attention. As a result it’s an engaging 41 minutes that is such fun it demands repeated plays.

With the album drawing to a close, we’re left with the gentler melancholy of ‘Best Days Of Our Lives‘ and ‘The Longest Goodbye’. Fitting choices, as the band has stated that Issue #2 may well be the last outing of The Middlenight Men for a long while, largely due to the logistical difficulties of assembling such a large group that all have their own increasingly successful musical ventures. Given this effort, let’s hope it’s an au revoir rather than a final goodbye as this really feels like a band only just beginning to reach their potential. Just in case though, go catch them on tour while there’s still a chance!

Score: 9 out of 10

Reviewed by Tim Croydon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘Issue #2’ is released April 12th via Middlenight Records and available to pre-order via Bandcamp.

Tour dates

Album Launch:

Fri May 3 – London, Camden Underworld

Tour (co-headline with the Chris Catalyst Band)

Fri May 24 – Wolverhampton, KKs

Sat May 25 – Glasgow, Audio

Sun May 26 – Edinburgh, Bannermans

Thu May 30 – York, Fulford Arms

Fri May 31 – Blackpool, Waterloo

 

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