Top critical review
on 15 July 2007
Somehow it feels wrong to label the Young Knives "Britpop" -- they're so decidedly rock'n'roll that the last half of the word doesn't fit them.
In their full-length debut "Voices of Animals and Men," the British indie-rockers with the old-guy outfits blast out a series of explosive, high-energy rock songs, full of that old art-punk feeling. It's plenty of fun, though they sometimes have little but that blazing energy.
They open on repeating, screechy blasts of bass, with a bit of drum in between each blast. It's only the warmup for the frenetic, thumpy "Part Timer," apparently all about the woes of songwriting: "I'm not one to be at a loose end/But I found it hard to pick up the pen/Tomorrow I will try it again/With the sword..." Henry Dartnall howls.
It's a pretty weak song musically -- large spaces are filled with the blast-of-bass/drums combo -- but things soon pick up with the abstract, midtempo rocker "Decision." Most of the songs stick to the blazing, high-octane rock sound, whether it's muscular and grimy, or fast-paced and catchy.
But about halfway through the album, the Young Knives start experimenting with their style, such as the woobly abstract electrofolk of "Tailors," or the jazzy "Half Timer." And in this second lap, their rock tunes become smoother and more restrained -- they're still bursting with energy, but it's channeled into more confident tunes.
In fact, that second half is what makes me think that the Young Knives will go places -- the first half is fun, but there's not much unique stamp to it. It's just guitar rock. But it sounds like they got some maturity and polish while making the album, and learned a few things about making a lasting rock tune.
Most of the music is a jumble of the usual rock instruments -- blasts of muscular bass, driving guitar melodies that can sway or rocket away, and drums to set a solid beat. Later on, they tie the instrumentation together into a tight melodic rope, and experiment with darker, more dramatic melodies. And one song is basically a loose bind of airy synth, odd noises, and a meandering acoustic guitar.
As if the album wasn't already suffused with love o' rock, Dartnall has a pretty good voice -- strong, raw, and on key. In fact, sometimes he sounds like Art Brut's Eddie Argos. Not just because of the spoken vocals, but the clever songs: being a rocker, girls ("You were screaming at your mom and I was punching your dad!"), and general problems with being a young British guy ("And I think I'm going to die in here/Considering Loughborough suicide/Which I'm definitely going to do this year...").
The Young Knives are pretty mediocre for the first half of "Voices of Animals and Men," but this fledgling band starts to really soar halfway through. Definitely keep an eye on these lads.