Finally, after over a decade on the sweaty coalface of jerky punk rock, some long overdue acclaim for this industrious trio. It’s taken a series of well received EPs, extensive tour schedules and three studio albums to get them thus far, but this fourth offering will, I confidently predict, cure your jaded and cynical hearts.
Henry Dartnall, guitarist and vocalist of the Young Knives parish, says of the recording “it’s as DIY and as filthy as we could make it. We wanted to make something dark and industrial, and a bit crass but with a sprinkling of pretty shit.” That’s exactly what they’ve delivered, although he should have also mentioned the joyous inventiveness and sense of humour which permeates the album; like a coating of pop marmalade on a piece of richly buttered punk toast.
Let us enter knifeworld, abandon Julian Cope all ye who enter. Starting off with a bunch of toddlers saying 1234, we quickly chug analogue synth-like into the early 1980s with the intriguingly titled Owl of Athens, sounding like Suicide, channelling Depeche Mode with some added atonal guitar playing- trust me it’s a grower!
A change of tempo for We Could Be Blood, a slow anthemic Blur-esque song in which Henry’s nonchalant vocal delivery juxtaposed with the big chorus works brilliantly.
By comparison White Sands is a descending trip into aural madness. Its refrain of ‘I took a hundred of these’ is inspired and I’m sure at one point I heard a snippet of Marquee Moon by television, or perhaps I’m going mad. Something Awful is a tale of irresistibly deranged angst set amid insistent riffing.
There’s lots of weirdness and ethereal shit going off in the background of their tunes, it’s like a great painting, the more you look the more you see, ‘Preset Columbus/Default Comets’ for example is totally out there, but then they come back at ya with ‘Bella Bella’, a huge, pulsating wall of sound built on a flood plain that threatens to fall over at any moment.
Then there are two tracks here which have gone immediately into my best tracks of 2013 list. First up is the speeding out of control Bed Warmer, which makes me incredibly happy, and secondly there’s the sad but mad Marble Maze. This track’s lyrical concerns about memory or the lack of it kills me everytime, totally original.
A final mention goes to Maureen, a beautiful slice of falling in love pop. This and a host of other top tunes make Sick Octave one of the freshest albums of 2013, come December, I don’t think I’ll be the only person who includes it in their top ten albums of the year. File under bloody marvellous.
By John Haylock