[29 January 2009]
Some records can immediately draw a listener in with the lushness of the sound. The Knux’s Remind Me in 3 Days… is one of those records. As soon as the play button is hit, it will seem as if your stereo itself has gotten a makeover. What ensues is the aural equivalent of a glass of champagne being poured over and over again. Unfortunately, it isn’t enough. The Knux could have served up some caviar with the Dom Perignon, but instead what they give us is soda crackers.
It’s a real disappointment. The talent of brothers Krispy Kream and Rah Al Millio is obvious from the start. Words flow off the tongue with a lightning-quick deftness that is thrilling to hear. The grooves are deep; the melodies flow effortlessly—so much so that the Knux make most other contemporary hip-hop acts seem as if they are attempting free jazz.
The main problem is with the songs. They’re unfinished. They rely on repetition and forego closure. A strong beat and melody may sound great for 30 seconds in a commercial or as background music for a show, but an artist has got to do something with the whole of it if they want to make a compelling record. This is the Knux’s Achilles’ heel. You can hear skill flowing off the band, but without the actual crafting of the tunes, the end result is amateurish. It’s candy, and no matter how many times I’ve played Remind Me, it just doesn’t stick.
Another problem is the overwhelming sense that some slick record label guy was in the studio, with sunglasses on, twitching around and saying things like, “Dudes! You guys ever hear this band TV on the Radio?! That’s what we’ve gotta do! TV on the Radio, but, like, more hip-hop!” There’s something too of-the-moment about the debut, which might let the band themselves off the hook a bit. It has all the earmarks of industry heavy-handedness. It shows in the constant pushing forth of the hooks, never letting them drop to let a tune breathe. It shows in the insistence of chant-along frat-boy shouts in so many spots that one’s fist eventually has to get tired of punching the air. It shows in the damn compressed volume of the thing, and the insistence that this is an “alternative” hip-hop act, so mostly-unnecessary guitar lines are occasionally punched in.
There’s practically no sense in discussing some of the embarrassingly juvenile lyrics, other than to say that, with the flow that is displayed, why not push the actual rhymes to the limits instead of dumbing things down? For every great “My pop was a dead beat / Who ate that red meat / I’m fishin’ vegetables / ‘Cause he didn’t raise me” (“The True”), there’s a “I need a fresh cappuccino with a mocha twist / Hey, hey Miss” (“Cappuccino”) repeated ad nauseum. That may sound good with a model walking by, but Krispy Kream and Al Millio have the chops to make something that plays well ten years from now.
Remind Me in 3 Days… is a record for the now, so much so that my concern about song craft no doubt won’t even register with all the people who will hear this blasting from a mall store and wonder what they’re missing. The Knux has made this middling debut, and with the right exposure the band will probably prove all my critiquing wrong by becoming huge. I hope they do, if only to carry some weight and some processed ideas into the next release.