Knife in the
by Tim Byrnes
Five Star: A look at albums
that are so good that they impress even the most cynical of critics. Very
few albums are superior enough to obtain a five star rating but occasionally
a band slips through the river of mediocrity that is the modern music industry
and they produce an album that restores our faith in the future of rock!
This series is a look at such albums.
Knife in the Water named themselves after
the Polanski film where a husband and wife are on a sailboat with a hitchhiker
who, in an attempt to win the wifeís favor, challenges the husband with
ever more competitive ďgamesí. What starts off friendly gets more and more
intense as the wifeís interest in the hitchhiker moves from casual to carnal,.
She starts getting turned on by the steadily increasing aggression and
humiliation-maybe feeling bad can feel good if itís coming at you hard
and fast enough.
But this Knife drags slooooooooowly, each
angelic vocal harmony and crying steel guitar giving itís misery the dignity
it deserves, wrapping their many dark thoughts in a detached, but still
beautiful, beauty that tears â€ėcross your heart as it hopes
to die. By placing the introspective and bleak-unto-death subject matter
of the lyrics in grand, cinematic soundscapes that evoke the big skies
of both Texas and Mars, brain-trust vocalists Aaron Blount and Laura Krause
mirror the married couple of the film. Their lyrics are their sailboat,
tense and confining in the vast sea of their music.
With this re-release of their 1999 debut,
Knife in the Water bring their dark night of the soul music to a theater
near you, again. If you missed them first time around, this CD is a great
introduction to a band that captures the sound of loneliness and late night
regret better than most. The opening cut One Sound, shakes like an old,
cold ghost draped in cathedral organ waking at dawn on a desert roadside
to the same old fearful sense that you f***ed up again but everything will
be ok once you find someone to blame. (ėI try to break your health, cause
I canít breathe myselfí). Itís lyrics like these that led me, at first,
to see Knife as anti-human, or in the case of this line from Swallows ďI
donít give a damn if every bird in the world around/would die and hit the
groundí, anti-avian. But, I thought, catís gotta be real down to start
hating birds and, besides, havenít we all all been so far down that we
hated everything, if only for an instant? I know I have. Recognition and
acceptance of that black core is tricky enough, but investing it with the
kind of stately grace found here, giving beautiful voice(s) and luxurious
backdrops to the desolation encountered when one realizes that we are all
alone, if not doomed, well brother, thatís art.
The act of creation, in itself, guarantees
humanity. If youíve really given up. Why show up at all, even to sing,
rather than curse, the darkness? Knife in the Water do more than merely
show up (although sometimes, thatís enough and often more than one is capable
of doing), they engage the beast and dress it up in holy sounds, waltz
it across the Texas of the American night, each song a chamber in the same
breaking heart. In the tradition of evocative socio-realists ranging from
the Velvet Underground through the Cowboy Junkies and the Cure to Chavez
and Palace, Knife in the Water stand tall, proud and, ultimately, profoundly
in the Water - Plays One Sound and Others
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