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Voices of Animals and Men

Voices of Animals and Men

The Young Knives

Transgressive / 2006

James Ketchell

This band, from the inconspicuous and so un-rock and roll Ashby de la Zouch, have quietly been gaining massive acclaim and support from both music lovers and critics alike.  The band are made up of brothers Henry and Thomas Dartnall, although Thomas is referred to as ‘House of Lords’, and Oliver Askew on the drums.  It is fair to say that the music presented on Voices of Animals and Men is as English as it could get.  Like a Kinks for the iPod generation, one cannot explain their music without referring to their very English musical roots.  In many respects, if Arctic Monkeys were the band of the urban, northern city then the Young Knives are the band of the picturesque rural market town. And the boredom of living in such a place.

Indeed, it is this rural boredom which makes Voices of Animals and Men so charming and so English. But added to this boredom is a humour that very few bands could match.  If the boys behind Monty Python were twenty something indie kids in 2006, they would probably come up with something like this album. Musically it is a mix of post-punk rock bands like Franz Ferdinand or the Futureheads but with less perfection and a more ragged edge.  Which is all the more endearing and complements the absurdist and surrealist lyrics perfectly.

‘Mystic Energy’ is perhaps the musical highlight, a hit that should be played at all New Years Eve indie disco’s across the UK and forever after.  The almost perfect pop-tune is addictive as all the best indie rock tracks should be. ‘Here Comes the Rumour Mill’ sees the song descend into an amazing chant, “they keep on lying to you, they keep on lying to you”.  Probably a perfect song at a Young Knives concert.

Their humour and absurd lyrics really come out in songs such as ‘Tailors’ which sees an acoustic ditty accompanied by the singer singing “button, button, button, needle, needle, needle” by way of a chorus. It is as random as it can get and perhaps could be them laughing at the pomposity of certain artists who decide to release clearly terrible songs in the name of “artistic credibility”. Opener ‘Part Timer’ has lyrics bemoaning boredom and the protagonist being unable to write a song, yet clearly he did write a song. ‘The Decision’ sees the protagonist wail:

I was a difficult child
I was abstract and wild
I played the Dane with a smile”

The song is completed with the singer claiming that he is the Prince of Wales and that decision was all his. So make of that what you will. ‘She’s Attracted To’ is possibly the funniest song I have ever heard.  It’s all about meeting your girlfriend’s parents only in this case it all ends in tears:

“Your dad cornered me in the hallway
While you were in the loo
He gave me a right talking to
He said I was a terroist” 

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Somewhat brilliantly the song takes a punkish turn and sees the singer chant over and over, “You were screaming at your mom and I was punching your dad”.  Comic genius.

Having read most of my review you’re probably thinking that it is just some funny band that will eventually fade as all comic acts do (see, the Darkness).  But there is a lot more to the Young Knives’ debut than a few hilarious lyrics.  The band have proved with this album that they  are witty and possess real intelligence.  Behind the lyrics lie some real insight.  I’ve picked up on references to Shakespeare and TS Eliot in the lyrics – indeed one gets the impression that they’re the ones actually playing a joke on all of us, fans and critics alike. They are smarter than they at first seem.

This is a great debut album from the Young Knives.  Musically ragged and rocking, there are some perfectly crafted post-punk songs on the album.  If there is a criticism, it is that the high standard of some songs is not met throughout the album, but that is to be expected on a debut record.  This is a record that shows real promise and should the public not bore with their Monty-Pytonesque humour born out of living in nowheresville, England then they have a bright future ahead of themselves.  Definitely one worth checking out.

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