on 19 February 2016
Following the success of their lo-fi debut, High Land Hard Rain, East Kilbride's Aztec Camera took stock, and decided to recruit a big name producer for their sophomore effort.
Their choice of Dire Straits' frontman Mark Knopfler alienated many of the band's hardcore fans, as they saw him as the antithesis of their heroes.
Wasn't he a bit commercial, a bit corporate, a bit obvious?
They needn't have worried.
While Knife marks a definite change in the sound of Aztec Camera, the production is entirely appropriate for the material written by Roddy Frame.
This is a record packed with top pop thrills, from first track Still on Fire right through to The Birth of the True, a live favourite of Frame's to this day.
Closing the album is the title track Knife, a heavier, guitar overdub laden affair, with Frame displaying all his axe-wielding talents, without sacrificing his melodic sensibilities.
A winning combination.
on 15 July 2010
Knife is the second album from British band Aztec Camera. Produced by Mark Knopfler (of Dire Straits fame) it is a cheery little pop album, filled with sweet tunes and catchy arrangements. The obviously 80s sound also gives it a nice, quaint feel. However don't expect High Land, Hard Rain part 2 here. It takes time to seep into your veins like a mature full bodied wined. Not always palatable but it becomes an acquired taste over time.
The debut was a little gem of a record for sure, "knife" on the other hand is the lesser record but hardly the disaster that many claimed . The record has mostly good songs, but perhaps knopflers tendency to add lots of keyboards to the groups sound makes Frames songs sound a little too chintzy rather than bringing atmosphere to proceedings.
Certainly the indie folk charm of the 1st album has been replaced by more electric guitars and funkier riffs. It is inevitably disappointing when an artist who has debuted with a precocious, distinctive, and fully-formed sound follows up with an album that is sub-par. Whereas High Land, Hard Rain, Aztec Camera's debut, was a breath of exceptionally fresh Scottish air, with Roddy Frame hitting on all cylinders, Knife is by comparison a lethargic, mediocre collection of songs. No where near a breezy and infectious as their previous offering. Perhaps its unfair to make so much comparison to their previous recorded but they set the benchmark high. As with most bands the sophomore record is an attempt to follow up on their debut and keep the momentum. But where as debuts are the result of years of unseen work follow ups are more of a contractual obligation. The only exception to this rule is Echo and the Bunnymen's Heaven Up Here
The first six tracks on Knife each sound like rejects from High Land, and Mark Knopfler's production only accentuates Frame's taste for rather saccharine arrangements and melodies. A year and a half passed and their delightful debut "High Land, Hard Rain". By now their valour had turned to thoughtful mood, the dashing jungle pop began to give his way to moderate folk ballad rock. Anyway their sound still reminds about the music of such romantic and sophisticated bands of that Prefab Sprout & Crowded House and not to dissimilar to Shack who were clearly influenced by Roddy and pals. But that is really not such a bad thing.
Knife is the kind of record you can keep on your shelf for many, many years, always confident that every time you get around to picking it up and putting it on it will always sound nice-rather than brilliant. That is a lot more than can be said for most music. Aztec Camera took big chances on Knife, embracing country and R&B while sugar coating the jangling guitars of High Land, Hard Rain with keyboards and horns adding to the group's formula.. All these songs are the work of lead singer Roddy Frame. Frame is one of those singer-songwriters who, for whatever reason, have an ear for melody. While some people will torture themselves to come up with a semblance of a melody, others just have a magical ability to produce them from nowhere. But like the Jam and Paul Weller it can also be their undoing. Bands need to be a cohesive unit, comrades where the sums of its parts are equal to the total value. All for one and one for all, but Frame like Weller have a tendency to be a bit a indulgent in places.
However we must remember this young prodigy was only 18 or so when High Land, Hard Rain was released and 20 or so when knife was released. Roddy Frame is Aztec Camera. A founding member of the band, he has been the one constant factor as quite a few musicians have come and gone since the debut record in 1983
Three Stars are awarded because its not imediatly acessable, But its one you won't condem to the boot sale