‘Knives’ Need Sharpening

March 19, 2009 at 2:06 pm (Gigs) (, , , , , )

Um, G?

Um, G?

The Young Knives, Brighton Coalition, 18/03/09

The Coalition isn’t exactly packed.

It isn’t a massive venue anyway, with around half the viewing space being taken up by massive stone pillars, but despite this, there is a strangely large amount of room for people to mill about in, and it’s actually quite easy to get to the bar.

It’s also not exactly what you would call ‘jumping’ either. The sort of manic energy one may expect at a gig from a band of The Young Knives stature seems suspiciously absent from proceedings and the audience look, if anything, almost awkwardly towards the stage. In some ways, this is hardly surprising.

A midweek gig, with the band onstage before the crowd have even had time for a pint in the middle of a recession, is hardly a sure-fire recipe for Dionysian debauchery, and if the audience is any reflection on the band itself, a touch of nerdish awkwardness in the crowd is hardly surprising.

This is a shame really, as The Knives’ seem to have been massively hamstrung by their image as jovial, almost buffoonish English eccentrics, with any mention of the band in the music press wilfully accompanied by references to ‘geography teachers’/ ‘charity shop Strokes’/’paedophiles’ (delete as appropriate). This, coupled with their dry on-stage banter with each other and the audience, has seen The Young Knives almost dismissed as a comedy band, or at least as a band not to be taken too seriously.

The group seem acutely aware of this (‘Jesus get on with it! People came for a music gig not a stand up routine!’ – House of Lords to his brother during a typically extended bit of audience banter), and ramp up the aggression and intensity in a bid at showcasing tracks from darker 2nd album ‘Superabundance’. However, this strange marriage of dark humour, spiky atonal punk and bleak, world weary lyricism seem to confuse the crowd even further, and with no less than four new songs on display here, it takes a while for the gig to really get going.

Thankfully there is a tipping point. Perhaps Henry Dartnall’s self deprecating on-stage comments (‘Don’t worry, this is our last new song, sorry they’re a bit shit’) have begun to engender feelings of protectiveness towards the band, or it could be an on-stage dig at Brighton pretension from House of Lords that guilt-trips the audience into a show of home town pride. It may be that by now everyone is a bit pissed and up for a spot of pogoing, or simply that The Knives start pulling out some of their better material, but a note perfect ‘Up All Night’ actually gets people moving for the first time in the night, the repeated ‘What’s the point?’ bridge challenging the crowd to get involved.

There follows a range of fan favourites, mainly from the first album, with ‘Tremblings of Trails’ and ‘Loughborough Suicide’ getting enthusiastic airings. ‘Current of the River’ is dispatched in all its fascistic Hammer horror glory, the kids at the front screaming back at the stage like Hitler youth, and, after frequent shouted requests a double act of ‘Weekends and Bleak Days’ and ‘Here Comes the Rumour Mill’ send the kids away happy and sweaty.

The Kids go wild.....

The Kids go wild.....

Note: I am in no way insinuating that the Young Knives are facists

Note: I am in no way insinuating that the Young Knives are facists

However, there does remain the feeling of an opportunity slightly wasted, which sadly applies to the bands career as a whole up to now. Bands may, understandably, dislike fans shouting for their favourites between the airing of new material or lesser known album tracks, but the sheer number of song names that were shouted from the audience when it became obvious that they would only have time for a couple more should tell the band a great deal. It wasn’t even as though the crowd were demanding the ‘hits’ (the band don’t really have any, in a conventional sense anyway), and the sheer variety of tracks requested during the gig proves that the band have a fine, and well loved back catalogue.

Yet cries for the idiosyncratic ‘Tailors’ were ignored (maybe the band hadn’t didn’t brought the requisite scissors for percussion). Similarly, there was no sign of the sublime ‘Another Hollow Line’, or ‘She’s Attracted To’, which not only features one of the best opening lines in modern music, but would have garnered a massive crowd reaction no matter where it was dropped into the set.

There’s no doubting the Young Knives are a talented and entertaining live band and all songs were delivered with technical panache, but the decision to play so many new tracks at the expense of better, more popular songs was one that failed to take advantage of the limited time they had on stage. That ‘Decision’, as the song goes, is theirs alone, but in a live context they could do a lot worse than to listen to their fans, confine some of that cynicism to record and try to have some fun. God knows we could do with some at the moment.

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