- Saturday - Merlin’s
by Jacob Drum
Among the recent rash of bands that fall into the Post-Everything/
Experimental/Other/You’ll-Never-Get-This-Because-the-Joke-Is-Really-On-You-Philistine genre, one usually comes across a few great innovators, a
few blatant copycats, and a mind-boggling array of some of
the shittiest aural experiences man has been inspired to conjure.
Most, if not all, of the last category confidently and repeatedly
stress their lack of definition in order to mask their utter
lack of talent, hoping that the more loudly they assert that
a person who doesn’t like their music is an uncultured swine,
the less likely anyone is to actually call bullshit. It’s
the musical equivalent of the guys who build up their upper
body and beat the crap out of scrawny kids to compensate for
their four-minute, one-position sex game. I really, really
hope Knife Crazy is better than that.
Knife Crazy is one of the few bands I’ve seen recently on
the experimental scene that seemed genuinely interested and
excited by the music they were playing. When they took their
act to Merlin’s on Saturday, June 24, they showed a tenacity
and stage presence that are hard to come by these days. Guitarists
Vic and Phill and drummer Fen thrashed and beat about the
stage as though they were playing and listening to the greatest
music they’d ever heard, something that sprang from their
writing efforts almost by accident, surprising even them.
problem was, the sound just didn’t match the image. Vic’s
rhythm guitar was constantly drowned out by the band’s recordings
and Phill’s repeaters. On at least two songs, Vic was clearly
playing something interesting, but nothing that even remotely
sounded like what it looked like he was doing came out of
the speakers. Either the sound at Merlin’s just sucks (entirely
possible) or they’re intentionally screwing over a band member.
Or they just wanted it to sound like one guy noodling over
his own riffs and stock radio clips, which would be too bad.
major setback was the band’s inability to order a set. Most
bands open their set list with a strong number, following
up with something familiar for fans, and then continuing into
slower or less palatable songs that the audience may not be
ready for, and capping it all off with a barnburner to let
the people know they got their money’s worth. There’s a good
reason for this: if you’re playing a bar show, you want to
get the crowd that doesn’t know your sound as excited and
into it as you possibly can before you introduce your artistic
vision. Newcomers will be much more likely to endorse your
out-there stuff if they know you can hit them with straight-up
good rock music whenever you want. Not so much with Knife
Crazy. They started with obtuse (albeit quite interesting)
songs that didn’t have a chance of moving anyone who wasn’t
already into their sound, and then progressed into harder,
more palatable material. This approach allows a large section
of the audience to tune you out and leave before they’ve heard
the material that will sell your CDs and merch.
sum up, I’m going to have to give Knife Crazy a frustrating
out of ten. They could have been so good. But you get the
feeling from their live show that they’re conning you into
liking them because of some local cred or artistic cred or
scene cred that they might have because they’re wearing baseball
T’s and the lead guitarist has thick-rimmed glasses on. You
also get the feeling that their album most likely sucks, because
the first seven songs you hear sound like a Mars Volta cover
band with bigger egos. If they come to your neighborhood,
check them out. Maybe it was a bad night; maybe they save
their best stuff for when they’re not playing a hometown show.
But don’t expect your mind to be blown artistically, and don’t
let them guilt you into it either.