Criminally under-rated three-piece The Young Knives are often characterised in two ways: as a band that plays angular post-punk and as being more English than Alan Bennett eating a scone off of Morrissey’s finest china. New album Ornaments from the Silver Arcade however sees them recording in Los Angeles and creating some of their most accessible pop music yet.
Other bands from the mid-noughties post-punk revival, such as The Rakes, The Dead 60s and Louis XIV have all since imploded due to the pressure of coping with a decline in the demand for their music and an unwillingness to evolve. The Young Knives have just about survived by having such a recognisable style, both musically and visually (for the uninitiated, there is something of the David Mitchell about lead singer Henry Dartnall and the wearing of tweed is far from alien to this group). The Leicestershire trio have adapted their sound to feature loud, sing-along choruses alongside the familiar catchy guitar hooks. We are even treated to bongos and a brass section featured on Ornaments from the Silver Arcade.
Where previous album Superabundance had its share of sinister moments, such as lyrics about asphyxiation and being covered in flies, this latest release is mostly upbeat, with almost every track lasting between the three and four minute mark, which most mathematicians agree is the perfect length for a pop song. Opener and first single ‘Love My Name’ sounds typical of The Young Knives’ cannon, and would lead us to think that the album will be by-numbers and impersonal. However, second track ‘Woman’ completely pulls the rug from beneath our feet by featuring a brass section and female backing singers going “Yeah yeah yeah”. The ability of The Young Knives to surprise but retain their own individual sound is part of their appeal.
The sunny, optimistic side of the record is shown on ‘Vision in Rags’, which is reminiscent of a British summer, with talk of the “sun bleeding through the porridge sky” (Why don’t more modern rock songs feature the word ‘porridge’?) and melodies at times evocative of The Beach Boys. Another highlight is ‘Sister Frideswide’, a song presumably about a nun, featuring gargantuan guitar hooks and what The Young Knives refer to as “ewoos” as backing vocals. There are plenty of examples on this album of catchy, eccentric pop tracks.
There is more than enough on this album to satisfy any indie music fan, but one problem with Ornaments from the Silver Arcade is that most of the songs contained within it are in rather a similar vein. Fortunately, due to the quality of the songs on this album, their similarity is not really an issue. Ornaments from the Silver Arcade is an impressive effort, full of catchy and unpredictable pop songs. The Young Knives have a lot more to offer than the average indie band, and they severely deserve more exposure. X Factor Christmas single, anyone?
8 out 10
Good: Full of guitar hooks, catchy choruses and precision peculiarity
Bad: There’s not that much variety on this record