Posts Tagged Young Knives
I’ve lost count of the number of time I’ve popped Superabundance by The Young Knives on my headphones in bed, and drifted off to sleep listening to it, only to wake up in near-heart attack conditions part-way into this song (I’ll not tell you at what point exactly, have a look and see if you can guess):
Having watched the video doesn’t help either.
PS oh ok, it’s at about 1m55s, but watch it from the beginning to appreciate the full slumber-to-shock transition.
Ah. Turns out the next Young Knives’ single isn’t Everything Falls Into Place (which it ruddy should be), it’s Human Again. Which is here:
Yes, it’s my inevitable review of the Young Knives’ new LP, Ornaments From The Silver Arcade (they were seeking a mysterious, fairy tale-sounding title, and ended up getting inspiration from a Leicester shopping centre).
This is quite a departure from their previous albums, both of which (as I have contemplated before) feature cheeky angst, misanthropy, and spiky indie guitars by the shed-load. This time round, they have taken a conscious decision to be more accessible, poppier, and a touch more optimistic: it was at first disconcerting to find myself mentally referencing bands such as Space, Supergrass, The Killers, Duran Duran, and Kaiser Chiefs while listening to this.
The addition of elements of funk, hand-claps, keyboards, female backing vocals, a bit of brass, and 80s pop-eque production does occasionally veer worryingly close to white-boys-do-jazz/funk-lite. But it certainly achieves that ease of access they say they were looking for – I can see something off this album being a relatively big mainstream hit: pushed, I’d go for Everything Falls Into Place (an infectiously, defiantly upbeat take on life’s mundane worries – just hinting, of course, at their early works’ bleaker outlook on life).
By contrast, on Woman (an ode to transvestism. Or maybe transgenderism. Anyway, it’s deeply sexual), and Vision In Rags, they seem to go too far musically and end up sounding, well, poppily normal (which is the last thing this band should ever try to be).
Similarly, the lack of any explicit rage or contempt at society in general leaves the lyrics feeling uncomfortably watery at times (such as Running From A Standing Start: “There’s a new dance called the sway low / You can do it how you please / Lunchtime Lucy likes to watch me / Do the coochie on my knees”). Sister Frideswide, on the other hand, sees us back on more familiar territory, contemplating a sexually-tempted nun (not a sentence I’ve ever written before).
As always, though, these things are about balance. And with the back-to-back Go To Ground, Silver Tongue, and Storm Clouds, they get it just about right, striking a happy medium between light and dark. The first of these is pained and heartfelt; the next mixes self-deprecation, self-loathing and self-awareness; the last is a brooding affair with menacing, apocalyptic guitars.
Overall, the album doesn’t fully represent Young Knives’ work to date. But I suspect that’s half their point; in breaking out of their norm, they may be heading down a new path. Hopefully one which continues to tread the line between pop and Wicker Man.
Yes, it’s the Young Knives’ new single, ‘Love My Name’. The first time I listened to it, I didn’t like it, and this feeling made me scared and worried. Second time, I thought it might have something about it. Third time, I got it. There’s no sign of the alleged Rn’B feel they claimed would feature on their imminent third album (but they are cheeky monkeys so could have been having everyone on), it’s more choppy guitars but with a few doses of electronic wibblings thrown in.
What is not to love?
I’ve alluded to the Young Knives’ contemplation of mortality here before. They do it particularly well on the back-to-back tracks Coastguard and Loughborough Suicide on their first album.
The first of these sees them chastising a coastguard for carelessness resulting in a young girl’s death (“..are you familiar? / High tides are not peculiar”), using the surprisingly haunting image of a domestic table to hammer the point home: this being home to first an unused yellow coat, then the coastguard’s sorry face, and finally an empty dining place. Far from being maudlin, this is a dark, driven track, with vocals alternating between near-screaming and clinical, matter-of-fact statements (one of which led to me to learn a new word, the adjective ‘benthic’).
Loughborough Suicide takes us from under the sea to up in the air, contemplating a leap from a tall tower. In Loughborough. Obviously. Resignation permeates the song, as well as a nice sense of procrastination (“Well it’s cold, cold, cold / And I think I’m going to die in here / Considering Loughborough suicide / Which I’m definitely going to do this year”). The tone is lighter than Coastguard, reflecting an uncertainty in the lyrics (year abroad, psychoanalysis, death from a great height… oh decisions, decisions).
Both videos are below, while here you can access a map of the Loughborough Carillon: I hear it offers marvellous spring-time views.
I really do think more people should blog about The Young Knives, you know.
Of late (that is, for about 2 months), I have been obsessed with Counters from their second album, Superabundance; obsessed to the point of absorption, assimilation, and integration. I was initially fooled by the gentle, almost sing-song start, but their familiarly choppy, angular guitars soon take over, along with feral dogs barking: a snatch of the chaotic, bleak, grimy demi-monde just next door to where the Knives live. At least, that’s what I hear.
The song is a tale of anger and bitterness, mostly aimed at an un-named target (“It seems that everything’s gone wrong / Since you entered my life”) but I get a sense of a healthy slab of self-hatred too, culminating in “sitting in the front seat / turning on the motor / sucking on the hosepipe / keep it turning over” – an unlikely, but successful, candidate for a sing-along chorus if I ever heard one.
The repeated sing-song lines offer perhaps a glimpse of the reason for the sweat-stained shirt and sour milk. It could just be that I have spent far too much time with accountants these last couple of years, but relegating other people from ‘numbers’ to mere ‘counters’ sounds to me like a natural progression if you’re financially-minded. Now, where are my car keys?
Also, I have no idea what’s going on with the video.
The Young Knives are, in a literal, geographic sense, Middle England: they were formed in Ashby de la Zouch, the kind of place where successful Bullseye contestants would return home, towing a speedboat and thinking “how the hell do I sell this on??”. This apart, they wouldn’t really be called ‘normal’ – how many other bands feature two brothers?
Ok, how many other bands features brothers who look like David Mitchell and Ronnie Barker? And in how many other bands featuring brothers who look like David Mitchell and Ronnie Barker does the latter go by the name The House Of Lords (because he exercises a power of veto over the others)?
The Young Knives are regularly marvellously scornful. Quite often at people just like me. Such as in Half Timer: A salary / It gets you through to half time / A salary / Why don’t you, erm, smash the system from within / A salary / Get yourself a promotion / And then take your children to the zoo for the weekend / A salary / With the extra cash you’ve got there.
What I also find interesting about The Young Knives is the moment at which they first (to my – probably limited – knowledge) introduce strings to their sound. This might be one of my typically uninformed feelings, but I swear doing so is invariably the moment when an indie band jumps the shark and loses almost all connection to what made them them (yes, I mean you, Manic Street Preachers – this reference goes back to about 1997. I am nothing if not current).
However, 1 minute into the 6th song on The Young Knives’ second album, in come the strings. And what would you know, it only bloody works a treat. After listening to the song multiple times I can usually convince myself that, at 3 minutes and 12 seconds, as I’m urged to jump from the prow and swim to the shore away from this ghost-ship, the world is actually ending.
Anywho, I’m off to smash the system. Night all.