Young Knives | Mercury Lounge | 6.09.2008

"We're always getting called 'indie schmindie.' Tell me, do the Arctic Monkeys have a song that sounds like that?" Young Knives singer Henry Dartnall was getting just a bit defensive, not at anyone in the Mercury Lounge audience, but at certain critics/bloggers who tend to see them as also-rans. Sure, there's some disco hi-hat and spiky guitars on all the Young Knives albums, but there's a lot more going on there too: odd, distinctive harmonies, more than a little acid folk and mushroom tea psychedelia, consistently good lyrics, and catchy tunes. All of which were in full effect at the show. Plus some hilarious brotherly bickering between Henry and Thomas Darntall.

Henry's little outburst could've just been the heat. Monday was Day Three of upper-90s temperatures which was taking it's toll on the band who were playing their last show of a NYC-Philly offensive. I have a feeling that the "hot summer, hot hot summer" sung about in "Weekends and Bleak Days" is probably only about 80 degrees. (that's 26° C centigrade!) He added, "It's tough for us fat guys. I'm a little squodgy down there I have to admit." They really need to stop going on about their weight — guy's you're really not fat.

Squodginess aside, this was easily the best of the four Young Knives shows I've seen. (That's right, I've seen them four times.) It was also the first show where there was a full house to see them, with genuine fans besides myself and my friend Heather. When the band lit into "Weekends and Bleak Days" there were cheers from the back of the room and a group of ten or so pushed their way to the front and made one of the politest mosh pits I've ever seen — after bumping into a girl and spilling her drink, the offending reveler immediatley apologized. Which probably says as much about the Young Knives as does their music.

The set was mostly about their fine new album, Superabundance — most of it was played, though surprisingly not the single "Up All Night." We also got "The Decision," "Coastguard" and and encore of "She's Attracted To" which really sent the pit into hysterics. Young Knives still aren't getting the respect they deserve, but it seems they're getting closer.

SETLIST: fit 4 u | counters | terra firma | rue the day |
coastguard | i can hardly see them | turn tail | dyed in the wool |
weekends and bleak days | the decision |  current of the river | she's
attracted to

: Young Knives – Fit 4 U

MP3: Young Knives – Up All Night

Buy Superabundance, won't you? And a season-appropriate song from Voices of Animals and Men:

MP3: Young Knives – Weekends and Bleak Days (Hot Summer)

Young Knives on Solid Ground

Youngknives_terrafirmaWhile on Ollie Evans’ page on the Partizan Pictures website, I saw that they had just posted the video for the new Young Knives single, "Terra Firma."

I was expecting the first new single from the Hartnol brothers to be "Fit for You," which they’ve been playing at live shows for some time. Maybe they’re saving it for when the album is closer to release, as they don’t even have a title yet. (I don’t even think they’ve finished recording with producer Tony Doogan [Belle & Sebastian, Delgados, SFA]).

Nonetheless, "Terra Firma" is more friendly than almost anything the Young Knives have released before, yet there’s no question whose song it is.

MP3: Young Knives – Terra Firma

Sorry you didn’t win the Mercury, guys. Oh, here’s the video:

The Young Knives | Luna Lounge + Mercury Lounge | 3.20.2007 + 3.22.2007

The Young Knives
can’t catch a break. The trio from Leicestershire, England  aren’t getting the press that some UK bands receive, but they were set to play two high-profile gigs before SXSW, sharing the bill with the the View (at Luna Lounge) and the Bird and the Bee (Mercury Lounge). Dreaded visa issues forced them to cancel, and makeup shows were scheduled, but let’s just say the bands they got to play with left something to be desired.

But both shows were great, low turnout or not. What the band lack in easily digestible sounds, and NME-cover style, they make up for in energy and wit. The harmonies are a bit odd, and the riffs are more angular than other bands, but the Young Knives have plenty of hooks. Anyone who likes Wire or the Jam or Gang of Four (Andy Gill produced their album) will certainly like them — though they are less retro-sounding than other, more popular bands who claim the same influences.

Guitarist Henry Hartnol did most of the singing, though bassist House of Lords (aka Henry’s brother Thomas) did his fare share too, as well as providing the funniest moments. The singles from new album Voices of Animals and Men ("Weekends and Bleak Days," "She’s Attracted To," "The Decision," and "Here Comes the Rumor Mill") were obvious highlights, though new song "Fit for You" was maybe their best yet, and will surely end up as an A-side at some point. It may even chart.

Tuesday’s show at Luna Lounge didn’t seem to have any opening act at all, which made the $14 cover (what it was when they were playing with The View) seem extra steep. And walking into the giant space to find about 20 people there was disheartening. But more people filtered in — probably about 60 or so — just in time to catch the band…

…except it wasn’t the Young Knives. It was an opening band, unannounced, unlisted. They were from Philadelphia and mumbled their name before they launched into their set. How to describe them? A potent combination of horrible and ridiculously loud, like Greg Duli fronting a talentless bar band who nonetheless thought they were the shit. And in the Luna Lounge, there is nowhere to escape the noise, which is something I fear will be a fatal mistake for the club. The sales of ear plugs during this band’s set will probably hold as a record for some time. When the show was over, I asked around as to who they were, so I could avoid seeing them in the future. Nobody could tell me the name, not even the Young Knives manager, or Rob, the owner of Luna Lounge.* In fairness, the group did loan the Young Knives their instruments, so you have to give them credit for that. But seriously, they were bad.

The Mercury Lounge show was better all around. They played the same night as iPod commercial stars, the Fratellis, but it was a separate show, so you couldn’t just stick around and see the Young Knives. You had to exit the club, stand around till they let you back in, and then pay again. Kind of weak. There was a band before YKs, this synth glam thing called Unisex Salon. I spent most of the time trying to determine whether they were serious or not. The singer, covered in rediculous tattoos, looked like Jared Leto with a porn beard who learned all his dance moves from watching the Billy Squire "Rock Me Tonight" video. It was kinda like Hedwig minus the
hooks, or something out of the The Apple.

Then when the Young Knives took stage, to a nice crowd, but the show was somewhat undermined by a group of drunk, too cool for school idiots under the left speaker. Mainly it was one dude in sunglasses (hiding a massive shiner) who kept having his bros take pictures of him (drinking his beer) watching the band. In between songs they would shout a bunch of dumb shit, and kept buying the band rounds of Yager that they obviously didn’t want. "Sorry everyone. We need to stop the show so we can get drunk with this man," Henry Hartnol said after the first one. His brother added, "Cheers. I feel funny and can’t remember the notes anymore."

My friend Heather and I wondered if we were just old and cranky or if these guys were just douches. We settled on the latter.

MP3: The Young Knives – Part Timer

Voices of Animals and Men is out now, and comes with a bonus DVD of live performances and music videos. Highly recommended.

The photo above is actually from SXSW, taken from Gregscargill’s Flickr photostream. For pictures and a review of the Luna Lounge show, check out BrooklynRocks.

*I found out later the name of the opening band at the Luna Lounge show: Curtis Helldiver. You have been warned.

Young Knives Get Sharp for U.S.

One of my favorite shows of 2006 (that I never got around to writing up) was seeing The Young Knives at the Annex back in March. It was an after-party for the rowdy Rakes / Towers of London gig at Bowery. The Brakes played too, but the Young Knives were the real treat for me. They play that kind of nervy pop that I love and, like The Rakes, their lyrics are angsty in a funny, relatable way.

Released in the UK in August, Voices of Animals and Men, was just shy of my Top 20 list, falling somewhere around 22, but "She’s Attracted To" made my Best Singles list. As far as I’m concerned, its extended refrain of "You were screaming at your mom and I was punching your dad!" was this year’s "I’ve seen her naked twice!"

I’m happy to report that Rykodisc has snatched up The Young Knives in the US and will release Voices of Animals and Men in March 2007, which I’m guessing will coincide with a stateside visit for SXSW (and NYC along the way). In the meantime, start screaming along…

MP3: The Young Knives – "She’s Attracted To"

The video for "She’s Attracted To" is a classic as as well.