-->
Music

31Knots: Talk Like Blood

Kevin Jagernauth

For most, Talk Like Blood will be the first taste of 31Knots' skewed, jagged art rock.


31knots

Talk Like Blood

Label: Polyvinyl
US Release Date: 2005-10-11
UK Release Date: Available as import
iTunes affiliate
Amazon affiliate
Amazon
iTunes

If anything, 31Knots are a testament to perseverance. It's been eight years, and after two full-lengths and a couple of EPs on small independents, the band and their new album have arrived at Polyvinyl. For most, Talk Like Blood will be the first taste of 31Knots' skewed, jagged art rock and for the others who have sampled the band's taut math rock of the past, the new disc puts forth a new direction for the band.

The most shocking thing about Talk Like Blood are the absence of any hyper-instrumental workouts. Taking a more song-focused, melodic approach the band's direction points more towards Deerhoof's latest The Runners Four but to a far lesser effect. In wrestling the band's usually freeform style into a (for lack of a better word) pop format, much of their potency goes missing. What's left is surprisingly dull, and sometimes grating, batch of songs that should be so much better than they actually are.

The disc's centerpiece, the six-minute "Chain Reaction" is a prime example of much that is wrong with the album. The song starts with a fairly impressive riff build around some well-executed hammer-ons and pull-offs. However, guitarist/vocalist Jon Haege, quickly switches from picking into thoroughly boring start-stop rhythmic strumming. The progression isn't interesting enough to sustain a song of this length, but luckily bassist Jay Winebrenner makes things somewhat intriguing with some inventive fretwork in the latter half of the track. But this is largely the problem with Talk Like Blood -- some interesting parts framed around many more dull, pedestrian ones. Take "A Void Employs a Kiss" which starts with some pretty nifty ascending and descending riffage, before settling into some fairly ho-hum early '90s post-punk. Even the looped strings of the title track disappointingly morph into a My Chemical Romance-lite emotional weeper. Even worse is "Busy Is Bold" which somehow manages to dull more of Winebrenner's solid playing around a basic emo structure. But the album isn't all missed opportunities. "Intuition Imperfected" is a solid treat that allows Haege to dance beautifully around some nicely sequenced beats. "Proxy and Dominion" also manages to balance some frenetic piano playing with some solid guitar work and wound up in a tight two-minute running time.

The album's middling sound isn't helped by equally middling lyrics. "Thousand Wars" starts with the eye rolling and not particularly convincing proclamation, "Hell hath no fury like me/I will drown your land and burn your seas." Most of the other time, Haege prefers employing fairly amateur wordplay. Lines like "aiding abetting the bouts I'd turned into doubts," "we patrolled the crooked straits" and "slit the wrist and watch as I study all the drips" merely trip over themselves rather than making the impact they should.

31Knots are the kind of band rock fans really want to root for. They're stacked with talent, and show more than occasional flashes of brilliance. Unfortunately, they can't seem to break the songwriting mould their playing needs them to. By continuing to stick with rudimentary arrangements 31Knots will fail to evolve into the band they so desperately want to be.

4

In Americana music the present is female. Two-thirds of our year-end list is comprised of albums by women. Here, then, are the women (and a few men) who represented the best in Americana in 2017.

If a single moment best illustrates the current divide between Americana music and mainstream country music, it was Sturgill Simpson busking in the street outside the CMA Awards in Nashville. While Simpson played his guitar and sang in a sort of renegade-outsider protest, Garth Brooks was onstage lip-syncindg his way to Entertainer of the Year. Americana music is, of course, a sprawling range of roots genres that incorporates traditional aspects of country, blues, soul, bluegrass, etc., but often represents an amalgamation or reconstitution of those styles. But one common aspect of the music that Simpson appeared to be championing during his bit of street theater is the independence, artistic purity, and authenticity at the heart of Americana music. Clearly, that spirit is alive and well in the hundreds of releases each year that could be filed under Americana's vast umbrella.

Keep reading... Show less

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less
Music

The Best Country Music of 2017

still from Midland "Drinkin' Problem" video

There are many fine country musicians making music that is relevant and affecting in these troubled times. Here are ten of our favorites.

Year to year, country music as a genre sometimes seems to roll on without paying that much attention to what's going on in the world (with the exception of bro-country singers trying to adopt the latest hip-hop slang). That can feel like a problem in a year when 58 people are killed and 546 are injured by gun violence at a country-music concert – a public-relations issue for a genre that sees many of its stars outright celebrating the NRA. Then again, these days mainstream country stars don't seem to do all that well when they try to pivot quickly to comment on current events – take Keith Urban's muddled-at-best 2017 single "Female", as but one easy example.

Keep reading... Show less

It's ironic that by injecting a shot of cynicism into this glorified soap opera, Johnson provides the most satisfying explanation yet for the significance of The Force.

Despite J.J. Abrams successfully resuscitating the Star Wars franchise with 2015's Star Wars: The Force Awakens, many fans were still left yearning for something new. It was comforting to see old familiar faces from a galaxy far, far away, but casual fans were unlikely to tolerate another greatest hits collection from a franchise already plagued by compositional overlap (to put it kindly).

Keep reading... Show less
7

Yeah Yeah Yeahs played a few US shows to support the expanded reissue of their debut Fever to Tell.

Although they played a gig last year for an after-party for a Mick Rock doc, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs hadn't played a proper NYC show in four years before their Kings Theatre gig on November 7th, 2017. It was the last of only a handful of gigs, and the only one on the East coast.

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

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

rating-image