The Young Knives
Ornaments from the Silver Arcade
Released: Monday 4 April 2011
There's a palpable feeling on Ornaments from the Silver Arcade that The Young Knives are aware this is crunch time. Emerging into national prominence just as the 00s UK guitar band boom started to stagnate, the Ashby-de-la-Zouch trio found their mannered yet matey tales of suburban self-loathing and paranoia falling out of fashion. Second album Superabundance, released in 2008, failed to leave much of a dent in the public consciousness despite charting at number 28 and did little to reverse the feeling that the band's moment had slipped away.
In truth, The Young Knives were always a cut above the pub-rock-in-skinny-jeans likes of The Fratellis and Pigeon Detectives. Their songs had more bile and bite, more substance and an appealing sense of place. Having possibly identified the problem as the slightly meat-and-potatoes, 'landfill indie' nature of their music, the band have elected to experiment a little more in album number three. The best example of this comes on second track 'Woman', which sounds like XTC's Andy Partridge fronting a Kid Creole and the Coconuts track. There's a nifty bassline, shuffling percussion, female backing singers, brass and a nice dubby effect on Henry Dartnall's voice.
Elsewhere, 'Vision in Glass' chucks together a primitive keyboard beat, some Vampire Weekend-ish guitar and synth bass and makes it all work. The lyrics, however, stay resolutely focused on the minutiae of small-town drama: "Crunching on the front room driveway/ twitching at the gravel blinds/ you're spitting at my door again". Other songs, such as the tight punk-funk of 'Silver Tongue' and the apoplectic 'Storm Clouds' with its extended, effect-laden intro, also stretch the band's sound.
However, The Young Knives definitely aren't intent of reinventing the wheel here. First single 'I Love My Name' is likeable indie-rock, brimming with the kind of spiky, staccato melodies the band excel at, while 'Human Again' and 'Sister Frideswide' sound very like Blur at their most uncomplicatedly Britpop. Not necessarily a bad thing. 'Glasshouse' rounds things off with plenty of pummelling energy. Overall, this is a solid album but it lacks a really killer track. That said, The Young Knives' songwriting remains as strong as ever. Let's hope enough people are still listening.