Thursday, 14 April 2011

Album Review: Young Knives – Ornaments From The Silver Arcade

Released: April 4th
Label: Gadzook

Young Knives have never been a band to fuck about. So let's get straight to the point: on Ornaments From The Silver Arcade they have gone completely and unashamedly pop... and it's completely fucking brilliant.

Opener and lead single 'Love My Name' could lead you to think that all was business as usual with it's chugging post-punk guitar and mightily snappy rhythm but it's the only time here that you could accuse the band of sounding much like Young Knives of old. That's not to say it's unrecognisable though, Henry Dartnall is an anchoring presence with his unique vocals and the Knives trademark arch humour is still present even if the tone is less scathing.

The House Of Lords penned 'Woman' is a fine example of the fuller summery pop sound that Young Knives have developed for Ornaments. It's bouncy melody, soul groove and “la-la-la-la-la-la-lala” backing vocals almost obscuring the subject manner of transsexualism. With the clean guitar lines you could even mistake a Vampire Weekend influence if you didn't know any better.

It's not just the pop nuances that are newfound in the artrock heroes, they've loosened their ties and have a sense of optimism. On 'Everything Falls Into Place' they even manage to turn some lyrics about cheques bouncing and paperwork piling up (seriously is there anyone else but Young Knives who sing about this stuff?) into a chorus that's epic and hopeful. Likewise 'Human Again' looks past the self-inflicted pains of the night to the morning when it's all brighter with a musical sense of space and some handclaps.

It's something of a miracle that Young Knives have managed to add so many new elements to their sound without sacrificing this sense of space or obscuring their post-punk origins. Recording in LA, whilst letting the sunshine in, has given them a wider range of toys to play with clearly and across the record we get extra percussion (in the form of bongos), synthetic basslines, keyboards and backing vocals provided by some female singers. Even with these elements Henry's guitar is never obscured and the melodies shine through without any bombast whatsoever.

Most have already picked out 'Sister Frideswide' from the rest of the pack as the highlight from Ornaments. And there's very good reason for this – It's one of the very best things they've ever done. The tale of a tempted nun is told through XTC like musical turns and a chorus that's epic and glorious. It's not only future single material but it's the sound of the summer for fans of artpop and possibly one of the great tracks of the decade. Mind-blowingly fantastic!

And they don't leave it there. 'Vision In Rags' contains possibly the best lyric on the record, opening with the line “Sun bleeding through the porridge sky” it's evocative of the English summers and carries itself with an optimistic (that word again) bounce, whilst the closing triplet bring Ornaments From The Silver Arcade to a mighty fine close. The danceable groove of 'Silver Tongue' segues into the Future of the Left style rock of 'Storm Clouds' before they close with the futuristic pop of 'Glasshouse'. After this trio you're mad if yr reaction is anything other than hitting the play button again immediately

Haters gonna hate, but Young Knives are a classic band and are sure to have a heavy influence on the next generations of art-poppers. For fans of proper pop music Ornaments From The Silver Arcade (like its two predecessors) is a MUST.


Anonymous said...

A great review that gets to the heart of this brilliant album, the general consensus is that the nme review (who hated it) was by an imbecile in comparison.

'Sister Frideswide' is almost perfect pop and 'Woman' frankly makes this heterosexual male want to skip in my pants down the high street in my mums shoes going 'la-la-la-la-la-lalala' slapping my buttocks.

Great stuff!

Industrialnorth said...

Hate to disagree, but I loved the old Young Knives sound, the up-tempo songs, the hooks and the riffs made them one of my favourite bands. This album, to me, is just a load of bland, dull indie songs with some horns and electronics plunked on top of them in an effort to make them seem interesting.

Such a shame, they used to be somebody.