The smarts on display give the game away: These Knives remain as sharp as ever.
Dennis O'Dell 2008-03-07
Mouthy, opinionated and cynical they may be, but it's hard not to love the Young Knives. Rather than bring out what singer and principal songwriter Henry Dartnall predicted would be "...a second album of sh*t songs like every other band..." Superabundance admirably builds on their reputation for savvy, joyful dissections of the descent of civilisation. But can they really hold our attention with their adherence to indie rock?
Sure, the production from Mogwai-associate, Tony Doogan, is warm and bouncy and gives the Ashby De La Zouch trio room to breath, yet one feels they could have taken a few more chances. The sequencing of the album also detracts from any progress they may have made in the interim since Voices Of Animal & Men. A little more variation on the first half may have kept the attention more successfully. The fact remains that, if you're going to pass yourselves off as young geeks with a love for tweed and moaning about our debased times, it may help to choose a different format to convey this in other than the generic, angular guitar rock that peppers Superabundance. While songs like Light Switch or Terra Firma may contain lyrical gems, the music itself still conforms to the stop/start/shouty chorus/rattling high hat-type of template that so many of Britain's brightest hopes have employed over the last four years.
Yet, before we descend to the 'hipper' level of using this to label the Knives as mediocre, let's focus on the positives. Firstly the lyrics: Dartnall has a lovely line in bleak observation. For him modern life really is rubbish: " We're all slaves on this ship, this ship's sinking, we will not reach the shore" (Turn Tail). He's particularly good on the young coked-up socialite-baiting Up All Night ("what's the point?...everybody looks famous...everybody feels special tonight"), especially when he employs that sweetly whingey tone that's so blackly hilarious. Secondly: for every frantic indie-alike effort there's a moment of transcendent, almost psychedelic beauty. Turn Tail's strings add depth and the harmonies and dog barks on Counters push it into far more interesting territory at times. Later, Rue The Day approaches the raga-swirl of the Stone Roses more acid-drenched moments and Flies is a charmingly creepy vignette. It's just a shame that they return again and again to the jangly guitar cliches.
There's more than enough on Superabundance to keep hope alive that they can break out of a genre straightjacket that does them no favours. The smarts on display give the game away: These Knives remain as sharp as ever.