And by dipping their toes, I mean it’s a six-track album with a deluxe edition of (gasp) TWO whole bonus tracks. It’s a brave move, but also a smart one – not putting extra stuff on an album just for the sake of it. I like that it’s well thought-out and not a few random singles slapped onto one album.
In essence, Knuckles is more alternative rock with heavier guitar than all Z&G’s previous album, but what is striking for me is lead singer Greg Carlin’s vocal prowess. The rest of the band sound far cleaner and more put together than previous albums, and it’s far more melodious and well-constructed rather than using distortion to mask what could have been uncertainty.
Mike Wright’s drumming has grown from being pretty rudimentary and dictated by the other instruments to a beast of its own. I like. A lot.
[Aside: The Wisest Ones was for me the pinnacle of Carlin’s lyrical work so far and he had a lot to live up to here. He didn’t quite make it.]
Opening with the powerful I’ve Been Bad – the first single – Carlin’s unique vocals carry on the theme of despair and desperation. “There were passengers and hangers on/Those messed up kids where have they gone?/The stupid fights those fucked up nights,” he sings to the backdrop of slick production.
Mellowing out with Dive (Into the Deep End), the album shows how put-together the melodies are, and this could be my favourite song off this album. Shenton is far more talented than people give him credit for.
Dancing, however lyrically beautiful, sounds a bit weak. Pretty. But weak. “Let’s go dancing in the darkness / We can be free / We can take all of our guards down and disappear” – some prettiness right there.
Does God Love Me? makes me wonder – I thought The Wisest Ones placed Carlin firmly in the hands of the Devil in its subject matter – but it’s catchy and upbeat, kind of like the grown-up version of The Knife.
Goodbye is kind of like what Z&G could be if they went totally pop-rock. I don’t know what to make of it, really.
The title track is more like it. The familiar Z&G sound we’re used to and love. And it shows off his magnificent vocal abilities and the band’s ability to come together and make magic.
The stripped-down versions of Knuckles and Dive show the band’s versatility in working with minimal sound.
Knuckles is a kind of a bridging album; a gateway for what is to come from Z&G. It’s not their finest piece of work, but it is saying something – the band is now settled in their lineup, stable, cemented and ready to grow from strength to strength from here.
Rating: 6/10 – Nikita Ramkissoon
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