Tuesday 26 April 2011
I’m About To Lose Control…..
On the one hand, much of the music of the American New Wave of the late 1970’s was an attempt to infuse rock music with a mythic-poetic quality, a contemporary equivalent to the Symbolism of the 19th Century, in which the artist’s life was lived through their work to the extent that their very being became itself a lived poem, and in turn took on the quality of legend. Even your very name could be the subject of artistic transmutation.
On the other hand, you had The Knack. Formed in Los Angeles in 1978, the band were one of the most fascinating and controversial groups of the late Seventies. Like so much of the cultural output of the era, their work was equally capable of repulsing both conservatives and liberals, with its seemingly relentless fixation with the minutiae of incipient sexual intercourse.
In many ways, The Knack’s songs are some of the most compelling ever recorded, at their best working themselves up into a tumescent lather, as they flip back and forth through the attraction/repulsion dynamic of those first trepidatious fumblings of adolescent sexual discovery. Forever the nerd, singer Doug Fieger’s lyrics stammer like a schizoid masterbatory monologue as he runs through the potential fleshy joys and painful rejections to be encountered as he lasciviously circles his target.
With his toad sweat covered brow, glove-puppet eyes and flaring Kenneth Williams nostrils, Fieger would be unbearable were it not for the fact that The Knack were one of the most compulsive riff-machines of the era. Pinned down by the clinical drumming of Bruce Gary, the band’s timing is immaculate, opening and filling space with some of the tightest, sparest playing conceivable. It’s one of the paradoxes of The Knack that though their whole oeuvre encompassed the subject of frustration and denial, their music was supremely satisfying, its surplus libido tickling the listener with endless stutters and tics. Even their solos are punctually pleasing, being lyrical and expressive, but never lasting a note longer than they should do.
That said, there was always something faintly obscene about The Knack, and America’s moral majority, with its impeccable flair for uncovering the decadent, was soon on the trail. The Knack were literally persecuted. Initially this merely concerned their alleged over-similarity to The Beatles (eh?), but when it began to be noted that the band were considerably older than the teenage girls they lyrically pursued, a full-blown "Knuke The Knack" campaign followed in earnest.
Riven by internal tensions of their own, after two great albums the band recorded the apologetic "Round Trip" in 1981 and disbanded. Inexcusably brilliant, it goes without saying that we shall never see their like again.