In the 8 years since No Knife first began taking stages by storm, the quartet, featuring Mitch Wilson (vocals/guitar), Brian Desjean (bass), Ryan Ferguson (guitar/vocals), and Chris Prescott (drums), has released 3 albums, 3 singles and made numerous compilation album appearances. They've toured the U.S. and Canada over a dozen times and recently completed a highly successful tour of Japan. But more importantly, despite obstacles, not the least of which are label and personnel changes, as well as radio indifference, they have continued to release music that stretches boundaries.
The signs of musical brilliance were there from the release of the group's first album, "Drunk On The Moon" (Goldenrod), in 1995. Indie rock fans found a sonically innovative new act full of promise. A song would often display a wide range of genre and influence within it's few short minutes, and even a cursory listen would show that the band raised the bar on musicianship. 1997's "Hit Man Dreams" and 1999's "Fire In the City Of Automatons" (Time Bomb / BMG) followed in quick succession, establishing the band with a growing worldwide following. And then- just when fans were used to the album a year scenario, nothing. We waited.
Well, it's been three years, but their long anticipated new album "Riot For Romance" (Better Looking) is a more than worthy successor. Showing the expansiveness of what can truly be achieved with a standard rock line up, the ten songs on "Riot For Romance" are the antidotes to what ails a cookie cutter rock scene. No Knife's music is impossible to pigeonhole- their sound can be many things. At points their rock is driving and angular, perhaps best exemplified on the title track, Mitch's plaintive voice matching the dissonant guitar beat for beat. Then there's the manic punk edge that shadows the explosive "Swinging Lovers", while the clean lines and quirky rhythms of "The Red Bedroom" show an understanding of song craft that clearly leaves most of their contemporaries in the dust. Meanwhile their ballads show an unerring ear for melody. The beauty of a track like "Feathers and Fur" is its seeming simplicity. The songs fragile, longing nature is set against a monotone guitar attack and the intricacy of some of the most glorious harmonies you're going to hear on a disc this year. There is also a haunting, melancholy texture to instrumental "May I Call You Doll" that bears repeated listens.
Hook filled without giving in to the clichés of pop, the songs on "Riot For Romance" are perfect showcases for the band's stark, oft times disjointed arrangements, something for every mood. It's a true album, in the classic style, with ebbs and flows, and a sensibility to the running order. Sequencing is a lost art. But through its layers of guitars, distortion, and reverb, lies some truly memorable music, clearly destined for many a year-end top ten list.
It's not often that groups live up to their promise. Most bands today barely bring us the foundations of rock, No Knife delivers architecture of sound.