The Knack’s reissued album certainly hits all the expected beats, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
The rollicking “Pop Is Dead” opens the reissue of 1998’s Zoom, The Knack’s fifth studio album, and makes up for in energy what it lacks in innovation. Lyrics like “Please don’t trouble me / not while I’m watching TV” probably weren't terribly fresh social commentary even in the band’s heyday, and the track opens Zoom on a note of empty bluster that turns out to be at odds with the rest of this pleasant, if lightweight, collection of songs.
“Can I Borrow a Kiss” offers a nostalgic look back on teenage love that feels more winning and genuine than the half-assed satire of the album’s opening rocker. “Smilin’” is likewise a fizzy confection with a touch of melancholy that would feel right at home on a Teenage Fanclub or Aztec Camera record. The Knack is at their best when they channel upbeat Glaswegian guitar pop, and there’s plenty of that sound to be had on Zoom.
The lyrics to the next track, “Ambition”, state, “You’re still the same, just rearranged”, and it’s hard to avoid leveling this critique at the rest of the album. This is a band that has been producing the same formulaic, three-minute rock & roll songs for several decades, after all. Then a jaunty harmonica pipes up and stifles the urge to grumble. Maybe there’s something to be said for doing one thing and doing it well. “Mister Magazine” dishes out effervescent, harmonizing backup vocals, while “Everything I Do” doubles down on the romantic and wistful energy. The feel-good tune “Love Is All There Is” might seem a bit earnest to contemporary ears, but damn if it isn’t charming as well.
“Terry & Julie Step Out” is a cheeky exploration of the romanticized 1960’s, complete with winking references to the divisive Beatles track “Revolution #9” and perennial Kinks favorite “Waterloo Sunset". “Harder on You” is a satisfying kiss-off number, and “You Gotta Be There” trots out a bittersweet contrast. “Good Enough” showcases a tight rhythm section, standing out as one of the most effective rockers on offer, and “In Blue Tonight” has some moments of pathos leavened by jangling guitars. The band evokes Sgt. Pepper’s-era Beatles for the dreamy “(All in the) All in All.” The bonus track “She Says” is an enjoyable (if unremarkable) power pop ballad. Overall, the second half of the album serves up more frothy goodness for an experience that’s more sweet than substantial, but that’s okay.
In case you were wondering, yes, a new version of “My Sharona” featuring bright, energetic work from former Frank Zappa drummer Terry Bozzio makes an appearance to close out the proceedings. This inclusion of the song that made the band’s name is unnecessary, though—it’s not as though the Knack has changed all that much since their smash hit single bludgeoned the airwaves. The demo versions of some of the album’s tracks likewise don’t add much beyond a barely-perceptible lack of production gloss. The Knack’s reissued album certainly hits all the expected beats, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Essential? Maybe not. But good enough.