Music

The Knife: Shaken-Up Versions

Somewhere between remixes and a live album, this brief collection would be less of a let down if the band weren't about to end.


The Knife

Shaken-Up Versions

Label: Rabid
US Release Date: 2014-06-10
UK Release Date: 2014-06-16
Amazon
iTunes

The Knife are calling it quits, or something like that, at least. Given that Karin Dreijer Andersson and Olof Dreijer both seem totally unconcerned with whether they should do things a certain way or not and are explicitly stopping because "it should only and always be for fun," who knows what will happen in the future? It’s natural, though, to try and look at what might be their last release for something. Clues, meaning, catharsis, something. But, as mentioned, the duo-turned-collective (live, at least) doesn’t really care what is expected of it, and nothing about Shaken-Up Versions feels like a swan song.

If anything, the most baffling thing about this brief set is that it isn’t a live album. These eight songs (one from the Knife’s debut, two each from Deep Cuts and Silent Shout, and three from immediate predecessor Shaking the Habitual) are all ones the band has been playing live, and they’ve all been re-recorded in forms much closer to their recent live versions. So why not just tape some concerts? Especially in the second half of their recent surprising spate of touring, when the core duo turned their complement of dancers into full band members and had Shaking the Habitual singer Shannon Funchess join up, the Knife’s sound really transformed from the none-more-Goth chill of Silent Shout and Dreijer Andersson’s work as Fever Ray to a colorful, intensely rhythmic, joyful eruption. A full-fledged live album of that show would be very welcome, and not just because then they probably wouldn’t leave off songs as good as Shaking the Habitual highlight "Raging Lung".

Apart from wishing that Shaken-Up Versions, or the band’s future, was something it definitely isn’t, though, the collection isn’t bad at all. The title is, if anything, a little too on the nose. These songs have been agitated until listening to, say, "We Share Our Mother’s Health" or "Pass This On" or "Without You My Life Would Be Boring" next to their original recorded versions makes the latter sound positively drowsy. The strongest reinventions come near the end, with a version of "Ready to Lose" that replaces the rolling percussion of the original with hollow, booming drums, and a "Silent Shout" that practically shivers itself to bits to end the album.

The latter shows another major difference between these shaken-up versions and the originals. This is the most straightforwardly that the Knife has ever approached techno, with more than one track here preceding the original intro of these songs with faintly generic bosh. The Knife also makes gestures towards the band’s political nature. There’s nothing to be embarrassed of in the old songs, but in a fitting nod the band’s consistent concern with gender politics "Got 2 Let U" gets gender neutral pronouns, and the two female singers of this "Pass This On" are now in love with the person they’re addressing’s sister, not brother.

These are all, in the grand scheme of things, minor changes to excellent songs. When they work best, as with "Silent Shout", they complement rather than replace the existing versions (with the possible exception of "Bird", from the debut, which benefits greatly from Dreijer Andersson’s improved vocals and and a deliriously sped-up version of its old hook). The result, then, frustratingly enough for fans who wanted something significant in the face of the Knife’s impending dissolution, is neither bad nor terribly essential; nice enough to have, but more a marker of where these still-vital artists were when it stopped being fun than anything more crucial.

6

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less
9
TV

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less
9

To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.


Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09
Amazon

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less
7

Gallagher's work often suffers unfairly beside famous husband's Raymond Carver. The Man from Kinvara should permanently remedy this.

Many years ago—it had to be 1989—my sister and I attended a poetry reading given by Tess Gallagher at California State University, Northridge's Little Playhouse. We were students, new to California and poetry. My sister had a paperback copy of Raymond Carver's Cathedral, which we'd both read with youthful admiration. We knew vaguely that he'd died, but didn't really understand the full force of his fame or talent until we unwittingly went to see his widow read.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image