Young Knives – Sick Octave

Sick OctaveSick Octave is the fourth album from indie-rock trio Young Knives. The former Mercury Prize nominees first showed their faces in 1998, and since then have toasted successful overseas tours, managed chart appearances (if not actual triumphs) and taken up decent support slots. In short, the band can boast achievements befitting an outfit that have earned their stripes and are now on the verge of pulling something wonderful out of the bag. The anticipation for the big step up is further encouraged by the information that the chaps rustled up studio funding for the album by way of Kickstarter, taking them away from label supervision and demands. And herein lies the problem; for as every dog knows, the uncontrolled uncorking of creative juices, though undoubtedly a cackle for the artists, always runs the risk of being of little benefit to, and even alienating, the audience.

Far from being the record Young Knives smash out of the park, Sick Octave is an undisciplined and awkward disappointment. It's hard to imagine the circumstances under which one would allow this smorgasbord of experimentations and unfulfilled rock to play through from beginning to end; such is the record's distracting incoherence. The visible seams between each track confuse the tone of the piece as a whole, and more often than not, the odd construction of the songs themselves achieve the same effect.

To pick out a few, “Green Island Red Raw” could be quirky filler from David Byrne's Uh-Oh album. There's also a touch of the meandering sensibilities of The Coral about it. Not dull, but somehow insubstantial. “White Sands” features a head-nodding guitar riff which appears to signal that the track is about to explode into a barnstormer at any second, but this never materialises. Like the band, it's on the brink of being something special. “Something Awful”, however, fails to deliver on the promise of its proverbial bucket-of-water-perched-on-top-of-door title, instead turning out to be the only song to take a traditional, satisfying journey. This is the record's highlight, along with “Score”, a brilliantly catchy number with an edginess to the vocals that is absent from the rest of the album. Unfortunately this catchy edginess only sticks around for one minute and five seconds.

The production is crisp, interesting and perhaps even complex at times, but it's not enough. Rather than the use of star symbols to represent the record's quality, a sigh followed by a shrug and an ambiguous contortion of the mouth seems more appropriate to sum up Sick Octave.

Release: 4th November 2013, Self-release

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