Artists Oliver Askew
Oliver plays drums in Oxford based trio The Young Knives
Young Knives may well have come to light in the midst of the guitar pop explosion of 2005 but the trio from Ashby-De-La-Zouch via Oxford always stood to one side of the rekindled Britpop of their peers. With a bite and aggression to early hit singles, "She's Attracted To', "The Decision' and "Weekends And Bleak Days (Hot Summer)' that suggested influences more akin to The Fall, Gang Of Four and Wire as opposed to the more prevalent likes of The Kinks and mid period Beatles.
The band built a deserved reputation for incendiary live performances whilst their choice of ex Gang Of Four man Andy Gill to produce debut, gold certified album "Voices Of Animals And Men' pointed to a desire to move beyond the then all popular rehashed beat pop of their peers. With a knack for wrapping pop hooks within their music, the trio also took control of their videos to produce memorable promos for the releases that referenced the likes of Hancock, League Of Gentlemen and The Wicker Man and further suggested a set of minds finely balanced between the joy of the immediate pop song and the long term pleasure of a more intellectual approach to their art.
"Voices Of Animals And Men' cemented Young Knives place in the hearts and minds of the UK pop cognoscenti, delivered a Mercury Music Prize nomination and saw them tour across Europe and the US to ever increasing crowds and critical recognition.
Tony Doogan (Belle And Sebastian, Mogwai), who was brought in to produce second album, "Superabundance', served to reveal a further development of Young Knives unique take on British pop where a vein of British pyschedelia became apparent. Stand out track "Turn Tail' invoked the spirits of Syd Barrett and The Move amongst others, whilst lyrically the social dislocation of their debut was turned up several notches, nowhere more so than "Up All Night' with the opening line "everybody looks famous'.
"Ornaments From The Silver Arcade' is the third studio album from Young Knives.
As with many things Young Knives, their album title is of some puzzlement. Ornaments may be trinkets from a fantastical dream world of self betterment and celebrity or a lava lamp from a bohemian Goth bazaar in a dilapidated shopping Arcade. Maybe the band are the ornaments in a world where they don't fit in, or maybe it's the songs, meant only to be attractive baubles.
Written over 2 years "Ornaments From The Silver Arcade' was recorded/mixed in LA by producer Nick Launay (Arcade Fire, Nick Cave, Gang Of Four, Talking Heads, Yeah Yeah Yeahs). The band have spread their wings and made an album that marks a significant departure from what went before, yet have successfully retained the energy and power that makes them "Young Knives'.
The process by which the band completed this album was less than straightforward. Singer, lyricist and guitarist Henry Dartnall explains where the whole thing began.
"When we started thinking about this record we felt completely free to do anything. That didn't make things easy. We had previously just stood in a room together and worked with what came out of jams. This time we wanted to push our boundaries, so we had to break from our old mould, which was difficult. We tried all sorts of things like swapping instruments and writing with other instruments.
This became the mantra for the album. A break with the past in many respects, but not a rejection of it allowing the songs and lyrics to breath;
"I was looking for honesty in my lyrics. We have often written from a third person point of view but I wanted to get stuff in there that I really felt and write from the heart. It's much harder to be honest and make good art because you can forget about the flow and sound of the words if you are thinking too hard about getting an emotion across. So we wanted to get a balance of the art of it and the emotion.
An example of this can be heard in the song "Vision in Rags'
"I wrote about a person I know and love, and also about the antithesis of that person, slaving away but never getting anything done, which happens to me sometimes. Then we just took the words and mixed them all up, and it created a really nice dreamy feel, slightly surreal, but the new sentences seemed to work in their own way, and if they didn't it inspired me to write new bits. The song would have probably started "Sun bleeding through the morning sky" but porridge sky made sense too, you can imagine it.
This process of experimentation and innovation reveals "Ornaments From The Silver Arcade' as undoubtedly the most ambitious Young Knives record to date and, to the band and those lucky enough to have already heard it, their best. The album reflects its transatlantic birth throughout, combining the most recognised elements of Young Knives' previous work (anglo-centric post punk shot through with a psychedelic soul, the proto grunge of Pixies, the soul of mid 70's Atlantic Records greats or the New York wiry funk of Talking Heads). Taking its cues from a plethora of different music, "Ornaments From The Silver Arcade' blends these supposedly disparate elements into a glorious whole and emphasises the trio as one of the most forward thinking and intelligent acts in UK music.
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