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Old 03-15-2008, 03:59 PM   #1 (permalink)
Molecules
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Default Young Knives - Superabundance



Released: March 10th 2008

The journalistic cliche of the 'difficult second album' would have us believe that at the very least 'Superabundance' is a disappointment in light of the Young Knives' well-received debut, 'Voices of Animals and Men' - in fact, the opposite is true.

For those unfamiliar with Oxford's Young Knives, you should probably know that this is a band that seems to polarize opinion, despite, to my mind, being one of the only charting pop groups of recent times with any sort of integrity.

Their debut was a record of cynicism, humour and pastoral nostalgia; really the Noughties' answer to Blur's 1992 album, 'Modern Life Is Rubbish'. Like that record, the Knives were an indie band taking their musical cues from the likes of Wire, bemoaning the state of a value-sapped Britain gone to the dogs, and finding success with a shamelessly catchy sound with a post-punk bent (it was produced by Gang of Four's Andy Gill). Often frenetic and sometimes mournful, it was a record that meant something, truly a voice of dissent. Unjustly however, the band were dismissed by many as just another product of the post-punk 'revival' of the time, despite predating it.



With their sophomore effort the Knives keep the pace up, with short-and-sweet melodies abound and some interesting stylistic development. The influence of the Britpop sound is predominant in this album, and in turn there is a detectable 60's pop/psych influence in a few tracks - that Kinks/'Village Green' factor that was so present in Blur's work.
Production-wise, their sound here is a lot more expansive and layered, with the appearance of string section and some nicely multi-tracked vocals and effects that really flesh out the compositions.

The flashes of experimentation dotted around the debut are barely seen here, unfortunately, except for the sublimely Syd Barrett-esque 'Mummy Light the Fire' and the Kinks-inebriated secret track; but the Young Knives have chosen the medium of pop to get their message across, and if you're after a challenging album you will not find it in 'Superabundance'. This is not world-shaking originality in the musical sense!

Still, lead singer/guitarist Henry Dartnall can pen a tune just as well as anybody in the UK at the moment, but the pathos of 'Voices of Animals and Men' has all but disappeared from this record - it's the same band, but they have apparently given up any hope for a better future... By track four, 'Counters', we are treated to the possibly the catchiest refrain of the album, 'sitting in the front seat / turning on the motor / sucking on a hosepipe / keep it turning over'.

Bleak, yes, and 'Up All Night' (really a manifesto of the Young Knives up to this point, that berated post-punk formula) is commendable simply for being a successful anti-scenester statement - taking place in a trendy London basement haunted by all-nighters, 'the faces so worn, so pale and drawn', where 'everybody is special in their mind's eye'.
Elsewhere there are welcome returns to the sharper, abrasive sounds of the band's Oxford youth (my neck of the woods actually), and the album really gains momentum once they depart from their signature pop-jerk.



On the whole the agenda on 'Superabundance' is clear from the title down: spreading malcontent through your radio.

So besides being famous for wearing tweed, parochial Englishness and being a threat to the cool branded-indie reign of the NME, the Young Knives have a slant on popular culture that really deserves to be heard and, hopefully, picked up on by kids with guitars and brains.
As with any good thing though it doesn't last long enough, and at points the Knives are in danger of teetering on melodrama, particularly with the unremarkable segue 'Flies', but otherwise I wholeheartedly recommend at least a cursory investigation of this band .
Disclaimer: subjective taste may infringe on a Molecules quality guarantee.

Oh, and they have a bassist called 'House of Lords'.
x

Rating: 8/10


Tracks to check on iTunes:
Current of the River
Rue the Days
Mummy Light the Fire
Counters
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Last edited by Molecules; 03-15-2008 at 04:26 PM.
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