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Knight School - Revenger

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Artist: Knight School

Album: Revenger

Label: Make a Mess

Review date: May. 6, 2010

Knight School is blunt. Sometimes in a refreshing way, sometimes disconcertingly so. No dissembling or post-something theoretical posturing is responsible for the simple songs that barrel through at consistent mid-tempo through the entirety of Revenger. There’s no ambition or necessity. No thoughts of transcendent primitivism or defiant mystery. These eleven songs just are, because that’s the way they were conceived. Revenger is full of the songs that the two kids (three at live shows) of Knight School really like, and you can hear it.

Off-the-cuff spontaneity, rapid change-ups, and harsh juxtapositions that read as (and probably are) accidents are what made the original lo-fi pioneers of the mid-1990s so charming. How else could Bee Thousand achieve such manic cohesion with such fractured sequencing? So, too, Knight School, albeit a bit more restrained. Or rather, inexperienced. If Guided By Voices was the gang of drunken, freewheeling teachers throwing the book at their kids, Knight School is their class of unreconstructed students. They’re just as free and open with their emotions, but it is a smaller subset. They are at turns confident, brash, and boastful, but mostly quiet, drowning and completely insecure. Calvin Johnson originally used all these things to serve the needs of a secretly hyper-sexed indie community. But Revenger is most definitely music for virgins.

Juvenilia reigns supreme here. So, whence the disconcertion? If Hanoi Janes writes songs for Shakespeare’s midsummer nights, Knight School makes music for Eliot’s April. From the power chord perspective, they’re mostly sunny, with only a handful of outright down-and-outers (like “The Girl’s Getting Fat”). But when you listen to what’s actually being said, the fumbling teenage syllabus takes on some of the characterizations of Little Father Time. Matter-of-fact calls for revenge quickly transition into familial anxieties on the wickedly named “Nope Everything Falls Into Place,” with confessions like “Life’s been so hard since I’ve been in limbo / Life’s been hard since mom was a bimbo / I haven’t seen dad in years / I wonder if he’s single.” Subtle tragedies become even subtler when hidden in hit single form. “Pizza My Coat” is the mixtape track you’re looking for this spring, despite the desperation behind needing to go to parties to find a place to sleep for the night. Knight School’s is a world of idiot wizards, T.R.A.S.H. men, girls getting fat, and meathead hurricanes. The kind of hell befitting of high school and Terry Gilliam audiences alike.

The adherence to what they’re thinking at the time, no matter how bummed out or out of sync with the music, is what’s both refreshing and disconcerting. “Hold My Hand” could’ve been another lo-fi amateur love song to be paired up with Year of Panic‘s “Can I Walk You Home?” for the imminent afternoons in the park. Instead, we get all the existential demons rushing out in statement after statement: “I don’t live in this city / I don’t care about you / i don’t know my name / I don’t write songs." Complete catharsis, and disavowal, masquerading behind a Beatles title.

The Beets, their brothers from another borough, have more or less perfected what it sounds like to be a weirdo punk kid who loves cartoons. Knight School fills out that picture by shading in the less rambunctious, more pensive elements of not fitting in. It’d be easy to peg them as just another Brooklyn bedroom project. And that’s definitely part of their thing. But the difference here is their forward, precocious approach that cuts through the internet indie bullshit fast and swift. Their directness and earnestness sets them apart, not the sound. Because while the newest wave of hip bands is out there hustling for some space on a billboard in Austin, these dudes are singing “I say fuck off to those who want me to grow up.”

By Evan Hanlon

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