SirTheory’s Treatise on Life

(opinions on just about anything)

Struck Last May – 16 Flowers

You might not be able to call Michael Knott successful, after all even in the Christian market which he was an alternative rock groundbreaker his name is more likely to be met with blank stares than not. Yet this has not prevented him from being remarkably prolific, especially in the 90s, when multiple albums in a year were not uncommon. However, new material from Knott has been pretty hard to come by the past two or three years. The drought finally ended at the end of ’06 with the All Indie E.P.. Now we have a new full length with a new band name.

Band names for Knott have tended to feel tacked on like an afterthought. The Russian roulette wheel spun to determine what album gets what moniker. Because whether Knott is electric or acoustic, L.S.U. or solo, it still tends to sound like Michael Knott. So it is understandable that even with a new and different band name on the cover of a Knott album we expect that to have simply been a new addition to the Russian roulette wheel. That assumption is a mistake and is probably at the root of many people’s backlash against the album.

Struck Last May is without a doubt the most experimental thing that Knott has been musically involved with. While there are portions of his back catalog which hint at experimentalism, not a single one of his albums really highlights that tendancy. 16 Flowers highlights it and revels in it, portraying a more textured vision than we’re used to. This is likely thanks to Knott’s partner in crime, Rick McDonough, who’s own solo projects are quite experimental and textured.

The tracks on 16 Flowers range from more typical acoustic Knott to more typical McDonough. Most songs find a middle ground that evoke both artists work. The mixture works really well most of the time, such as on “You Are Me” where McDonough provies ambiance to the standard Knott songwriting. Where it fails to work is when poorly pitched vocals and hollow-sounding drums (I’m looking at you, “Fraidy Cat”) are mistaken for being experimental. That isn’t being experimental, it is being too lazy to do things right.

Thankfully tracks like that are the exception rather than the rule. However, Knott and McDonough set themselves up for failure by making that one of the early tracks on the album, making the one that will stick in peoples minds as they listen for the first time. “Bundled Up” follows “Fraidy Cat” and, despite taking a step in the right direction, meanders on too long and still has some shadily performed vocals. Thus the stereotype for the album is set. If “Bundled Up” is listened to independently from “Fraidy Cat” it works a whole lot better. Unfortunately, the “Fraidy Cat” formula is repeated on the following track, “Pollen.” It isn’t really until track six of this 14 track album that the album settles into a groove and really shows off what the two do well. In fact, if tracks two through 5 were eliminated 16 Flowers would not only have a chance to really impress Knott fans, but be considered one of his better albums.

The other tracks also have experimental aspects, but they retain a pop sensibility and good songwriting. Experimentalism for experimentalism’s sake isn’t always a bad thing, but it needs to be more than the proverbial farts in a can. Because no one wants to hear that and the fact that you think that people do is quite masturbatory.

To really hear this album for what it should have been eliminate tracks two and four, and possibly five, from your listening experience. This will allow the other 2/3s of the album to stand out and show what it is that Knott and McDonough bring to the table together.

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September 2, 2007 - Posted by | Music

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