High Fidelity: Belfast’s Unquiet Nights Back Up Their Promises On Latest Single “Diamond And The Missing Son”

Let other groups hamstring themselves with irony and self-conscious cynicism. Belfast’s Unquiet Nights are going all-in on sincerity with “Diamond and the Missing Son,” the fervently rocking spotlight track from their just-released third studio album, Seasons in Exile. Check it out on YouTube here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=drfpl2Fb7eY

You can’t get more direct than singer/guitarist/songwriter Luke Mathers as his blessedly unaffected voice emits an anthem of solidarity that feels as earnest as a pinky swear:

You are the only thing that keeps me hanging on
And on and on
There’s nothing else could ever come between us

‘Cause we are
The diamond and the missing son

It’s immediate, irresistible stuff—so much so that you can listen a few times before you realize you aren’t sure what the song is actually about. Is it a promise from a father to his literal son? Maybe an oath of fealty sworn by best mates, like Mathers and his stalwart partner, drummer Rodger Firmin? A tip of the hat to their sometime musical collaborator, Francesco Piciucchi? Given the recurring appearances of studio tuxedo cat Whitesocks in the song’s suitably stripped-down black-and-white performance video, there might be another, more stealthily whimsical option.

What makes the track so quintessentially Unquiet Nights is that they’re a group everybody claims to get but nobody can seem to pin down. In their time, they’ve been compared to artists ranging from Tom Petty to The Vines to Bloc Party (for whom they’ve indeed opened). For their part, the band calls their sound “a distinctive blend of classic rock influences with elements of prog, folk, Britpop and Roy Orbison.” Sure, that clears it up.

Listen on Spotify here: https://open.spotify.com/album/3Q8DljJtyt92ZLDgOYNjE9?si=fRw316qqRYqFD5LuaqlzGg&nd=1&dlsi=a9048f7d2b944198

Whatever it is, you know it when you hear it. A track like “Diamond and the Missing Son” forges an instant impression with indelible hooks, muscular drumming and full-bodied guitar that makes sophisticated use of multi-tracking without ever coming off as cluttered. Mathers even gets off a few measures of nimble slide. Elsewhere on the album, songs like “Break Through the Waves” exhibit a more plaintive and mournful quality without sacrificing an iota of energy.

Recorded predominantly at the band’s own studio, the recently built Credential Sound, the album furthers the reputation for faith-restoring rock they’ve enjoyed with tastemakers and fans alike since they first emerged from a rehearsal space above Belfast’s famous Limelight club. In the ensuing decade, they’ve appeared on stages in nine countries and released three albums and four standalone singles. Praise from the likes of BBC Radio 1 and ex-Wallflowers bassist Greg Richling has boosted their profile, but what may have been the group’s biggest breakthrough came when their track “George Best City”—which references the late and legendary football player for Manchester United—got used in a Sky Italia sports documentary that was played hundreds of times.

And now we have Seasons in Exile—which despite its typically assured sheen was a more impromptu affair than these Nights are used to. The ball started rolling when Mathers and Firmin went into the studio to rework “Diamond and the Missing Son,” an old number from the recesses of their repertoire. Just a few marathon late-night sessions later, they had the guide tracks to an entire new album.

“We do think that this has been a very worthwhile experiment in starting the process without many full songs,” Mather says. “We hope the album pleases the people who stuck with us this long.”

Promises made, promises kept. How very on-brand.