re­grets No

They should have been con­tenders, but En­gine Al­ley’s Can­ice Ke­nealy has...

The Irish Mail on Sunday - - MORE - DANNY McELHINNEY

En­gine Al­ley

Armed with a bag­ful of glis­ten­ing songs as bright as their gold lamé and day­glo clothes, En­gine Al­ley pounced on the lo­cal mu­sic scene in the early Nineties like the hun­gry Kilkenny cats they were.

Their al­bum, A Sonic Hol­i­day, was one of the best Ir­ish de­but al­bums of that decade and their fol­low-up al­bum, A Shot In The Light, is ven­er­ated as an un­der­rated gem.

The orig­i­nal line-up, fea­tur­ing brothers Can­ice and Brian Ke­nealy, Ea­monn Byrne and Eme­line Duffy-Fal­lon, the ‘God­dess of the drum­stool’ as lead singer Can­ice peren­ni­ally re­ferred to her, were sonic span­gles in the drab era of early grunge and ‘bag­gie’ bands.

Tracks such as Flow­ers, Mrs Win­der and In­famy are tes­ta­ment to a be­lief that the suc­cess that was right­fully theirs, passed them by. Can­ice doesn’t like to dwell on the mis­for­tunes of the past but, in­stead, wants to in­tro­duce us to songs from that pe­riod that were des­tined for re­lease that didn’t see the light of day.

‘We’re re­leas­ing an al­bum called Show­room that fea­tures songs from two record­ing ses­sions in 1992 and 1993 and some oth­ers from a mini al­bum that we’d also planned to re­lease that was shelved. I’m not a great man for re­grets or say­ing that we should have achieved this or that, but I do feel sorry that we didn’t re­lease more al­bums and, hope­fully, this rights that wrong.’

En­gine Al­ley were signed to Mother Records, a la­bel U2 founded to give bands ‘a legup’, with short-term con­tracts that would put them in the shop win­dow for some­thing more sub­stan­tial. Some have sug­gested that Mother failed En­gine Al­ley at that time, but it’s not some­thing on which Can­ice chooses to dwell.

‘I don’t re­ally want to talk about that or them,’ he says. ‘Some peo­ple write ar­ti­cles about us and make that the main thrust of the nar­ra­tive. Yes, it could have gone dif­fer­ently for us. I’m just dis­ap­pointed that we didn’t get to play out­side out of Ire­land more of­ten. We only played three gigs out­side of Ire­land be­tween 1990 and 1992. Look­ing back, that statis­tic doesn’t make sense to me.’

Even though A Sonic Hol­i­day was voted the 1992 Ir­ish Al­bum of the Year in Hot Press mag­a­zine, En­gine Al­ley were un­known in Bri­tain where they hoped to re­ally make their mark.

‘We moved whole­sale to London in 1993, with a grim de­ter­mi­na­tion to make an im­pact. We got some great re­views, but we didn’t gen­er­ate many sales of our records. We came about just be­fore Brit­pop but had that pop sen­si­bil­ity with a punk in­flu­ence. Our image was a re­ac­tion to the “bag­gie” and early “grunge” look and at­ti­tude. We didn’t be­lieve in walk­ing on stage in our nor­mal clothes and shoegaz­ing... We looked back to the glam rock era,’ he says.

‘In our lat­ter days we stopped do­ing that and I think it might have dis­ap­pointed peo­ple. But I think we’ve tran­scended all that now and when peo­ple see us live nowa­days, they re­spond to the songs.’

A per­for­mance at Elec­tric Pic­nic showed that to be the case. Eme­line has long de­parted, re­placed first by Jerry Fe­hily, once of Hot­house Flow­ers, and now by Paul O’Byrne. The fact that I and many oth­ers still ask about a drum­mer who left the band in 1994, be­muses Ke­nealy.

‘We are friends on Face­book but there hasn’t re­ally been any com­mu­ni­ca­tion since she left. It’s amaz­ing peo­ple ask about her just be­cause she is a woman.’

With a se­ries of gigs com­ing up to pro­mote Show­room and an in­ten­tion to ul­ti­mately re­lease all their archived ma­te­rial to the pub­lic ‘in time’, Can­ice is fo­cused on the present and the fu­ture.

‘We have other projects. Brian has re­leased a cou­ple of solo al­bums. I’ve got a band called Rig­ma­role where we im­pro­vise the mu­sic on the spot at each gig.

‘I like mu­sic to be of, and in, the mo­ment. Be­ing on stage is a unique one-off ex­pe­ri­ence be­tween the per­former and the au­di­ence on and that can’t be repli­cated.’

En­gine Al­ley – Show­room is out now. They play Lim­er­ick Record Room on Septem­ber 21 and Féile Clas­si­cal on Septem­ber 22. See their Face­book page for more dates.

‘Be­ing on stage is a one-off ex­pe­ri­ence be­tween per­former and au­di­ence’

still mo­tor­ing: En­gine Al­ley to­day and, be­low, in their Nineties hey­day

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