Thursday, January 28, 2010

Look and Feel

Age of Revolution [EP]

Let's turn once again the time-honored rhetorical device of saying one nice thing about a record and then ripping it to shreds. Age of Revolution is really beautifully packaged. It comes in a cardstock sleeve that appears to be handpainted, a really nice delivery system for a CD reproduced on a budget. I wouldn't ever recommend their music, but I'd hire Knights to do album art in a second.

As for the tunes themselves, well, do you like Muse? If you like Muse, specifically their Black Holes and Revelations record, you will probably enjoy Age of Revolution, since every last element of this band's sound is precisely plagiarized from the self-important British trio. The keening high tenor vocals, uptempo minor-key guitar riffing, and metal-edged bass distortion of Knights are all lifted wholesale from this single source. In the interests of getting my facts straight for this review without actually having to listen to any more of either band, I sent a Knights clip to a trusted colleague. "The vocals are 110% Muse," Sebastian replies forcefully. "I cannot underscore that enough... the solo on "Excalibur" is a total rip off."

It's a pity that Knights don't have the wit or the imagination to draw from more than one inspiration (and that they're oblivious enough to name themselves after one of Muse's songs, even). They can play, and vocalist Nick Longoria has a magnificent instrument. But not only are they pathetically unoriginal, they're blindly following their idols to such a degree that they magnify every one of Muse's own weaknesses. To listen to a few minutes of any song by either band is exhausting because there's no recognition whatsoever of the meaning or value of subtlety. Every single line sounds like the climax of an entire album. Each section is buried in so many distracting effects, overperformed backing vocals, and effects-pedal onanism that the main ideas are obscured or lost entirely. Longoria's lyrics can't be heard clearly (which isn't that much of a loss) and the overload of production details sucks all of the emotion out of the instrumental and vocal performances alike.

Age of Revolution is overblown, juvenile, hollow, and cynical in the expectation that anyone who hears it will accept it as an original creation. The ridiculous thing is that without very much difficulty at all Knights could solve both of the major problems with their music. If only they could manage to find a way to incorporate some restraint at any point (stealing Radiohead's "Street Spirit" riff as does "Dragonfly" doesn't count, sorry) they'd both detach themselves from Muse and make their songs infinitely more palatable. As it is, listening to Knights is kind of like watching a porn compilation of all money shots, and equally as distasteful.

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