|Genres||Power pop, art rock, indie rock, psychedelic pop, glam rock|
|Labels||Mother Records, Island Records, Polydor Ltd.|
|Associated acts||Hothouse Flowers
|Members||Eamonn Byrne, Brian Kenealy, Canice Kenealy, Paul O'Byrne|
|Past members||Emmaline Duffy-Fallon, Kenneth Rice|
Engine Alley are a power pop band from Kilkenny, Ireland, active since the 1990s. Their largest success came in the early 90s, with many television appearances and successful singles. They have toured the UK, United States and Europe and supported bands such as U2, The Lemonheads and The B52s. Engine Alley continue to play at least one gig every year, in either Dublin or Kilkenny.
Formation and early career
The band was formed in 1989 in Kilkenny by brothers Canice (vocals/guitar) and Brian Kenealy (guitar), along with childhood friend Eamonn Byrne (bass). This core line-up would continue to the present day, making up the band's chief songwriting team. In 1990 they moved to the capital city of Dublin to pursue music. Here, they would meet drummer Emmaline Duffy-Fallon who joined the band while still in school, aged just 15. In 1991 the band added classically trained violin player Kenneth Rice from County Kerry, who also doubled up as keyboard player. The band took their name from a laneway in The Liberties, an old part of Dublin's south inner-city. In Dublin, the band quickly built up a following, largely due to their colourful and energetic live performances, in tandem with their 70s glam-inspired image. They were signed by U2's Mother Records label in 1990, and began to make many appearances on prominent chat and music television programmes in Ireland. October 1992 saw the release of their full-length debut album A Sonic Holiday, produced by Steve Lillywhite (U2, Peter Gabriel, The Rolling Stones). The record would win the Best Irish Album accolade that year, awarded by Ireland's leading music magazine Hot Press. The album featured many successful singles, notable of which is Song For Someone which featured Lillywhite's then-wife Kirsty MacColl on backing vocals.
The changing musical climate of the early 90s caused problems for the band commercially – frustrated that the band had failed to mirror their domestic success overseas, it was deemed necessary by record label higher-ups that the album be re-jigged and re-branded for a UK release. The band returned to the studio with producer/engineer Pat Collier (Robyn Hitchcock, Ocean Colour Scene, New Model Army) in 1993. The album was released by Polydor Records in November of that year under the title Engine Alley, the bulk of which was made up of material featured on A Sonic Holiday. This version of the album would later be released with an alternative cover in the US by Island Records. The band would, for a brief period, relocate to London (where they lived together under the same roof) before embarking on a short but successful tour of the US. Upon returning to Ireland drummer Emmaline Duffy-Fallon departed the band, being replaced by ex-Hothouse Flowers drummer Jerry Fehily. February 1995 saw the band part ways with Mother Records, following which they entered Sun Studios, Dublin to record the follow-up to their debut album – the result of which was Shot in the Light. Released 28 July 1995 on Independent Records, it was somewhat of a departure from the songs of the debut album; being more raw and displaying a darker edge. The album was a critical success but failed to match the hype and radio exposure of previous releases.
The band went on hiatus for a short time in 1996 and have not since returned to their prior level of activity, though they have continued to record and perform music as Engine Alley and otherwise. In 1997 the band line-up was bolstered by the additions of Paul O'Byrne (drums) and Mark Murphy (guitar) of The Valleys, which had been Brian and Eamonn's interim project. Though Murphy parted ways with the band soon after, O'Byrne continues to play drums for Engine Alley at live performances. In 1999, the band released the five-song Lavender Girl EP, which remains their last release to date. The band has recorded at least an album's worth of material, which has as-yet not seen an official release.
Later history and outside projects
Brian has released two solo albums; Paradise Place (2004) and Hiems Transiit (2013), and currently teaches music as a profession. Canice released a solo album under the name Clay Machine in 2002, and has also played in The Sound We Make (featuring members of Pugwash and The Duckworth Lewis Method) and Rigmarole. Emmaline released one single, Now or Never, in 1995 under the guidance of U2 manager Paul McGuinness, and more recently she founded Preachers Son with Brian Hogan (also of Kíla), whose debut album was produced by Dave Bascombe (Depeche Mode, Goldfrapp, Korn). Eamonn has continued to play in various bands and was live bassist for Michael Flatley's Lord of the Dance tour. Ken would become a member of many musical ensembles such as the Irish Chamber Orchestra and the Orchestra of the National Concert Hall, play as a live and session musician for many contemporary acts such as Bell X1, Kirsty MacColl and Idlewild, as well as composing music for film and television.
A Sonic Holiday was included in Tony Clayton Lea's tome 101 Irish Records You Must Hear Before You Die, published by Liberties Press in 2011. In 2013, A Sonic Holiday was featured as one of the 'Top 30 Irish Albums of All Time' in The Irish Independent. The follow-up was praised by rte.ie; "If 'A Sonic Holiday' was the sound of that youthful exuberance that debut albums can sometimes harness, 'Shot in the Light' captures the band in their prime. Calling it a master stroke is not false praise."
Engine Alley continue to play at least one gig every year, in either Dublin or Kilkenny.
Style and influences
Engine Alley fused melodic pop music with hard-edged, catchy riffs. Known for their art rock tendencies, they have incorporated many styles including psychedelic pop, glam rock and punk music. The band have expressed admiration for a variety of artists such as The Beatles, David Bowie, The Clash, Neil Young, Big Star, The Smiths and Talking Heads. They have also noted some progressive rock albums as having been an inspiration, such as Jeff Wayne's Musical Version of The War of the Worlds. Being a keenly visual band they have stated that many films have influenced them, including musicals and the work of Martin Scorsese.
- A Sonic Holiday (Mother Records, October 1992)
- Engine Alley (Polydor Ltd./Mother Records, November 1993)
- Engine Alley [re-issue] (Island Records/Mother Records, October 1994)
- Shot in The Light (Independent Records, 28 July 1995)
Singles & EPs
- "Flowerbox EP" (Mother Records, August 1991)
- "Jesus Christ" (self-released, December 1991)
- "Infamy" (Mother Records, March 1992)
- "Mrs. Winder" (Mother Records, October 1992)
- "Song for Someone" (Mother Records, June 1993)
- "Infamy" [re-issue] (Mother Records/Polydor Ltd., September 1993)
- "Switch EP" (Mother Records, November 1993)
- "Switch" (Mother Records/Polydor Ltd., November 1993)
- "Old Lovers in a Basement Flat" (Mother Records/Polydor Ltd., 1994)
- "I Can't Help You" (Independent Records, December 1995)
- "Lavender Girl EP" (Chrome Star, 7 May 1999)