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Knowso: Rare Auld Trip / Psychological Garden 12"

Knowso: Rare Auld Trip / Psychological Garden 12"

Tags: · 20s · cleveland · garage · hcpmf · melodic · punk · recommended
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All caught up with last August’s blast of herky-jerky darkness from Knowso? Don’t get too comfy, now - nine months later, they’re back with another eight hits of visceral smarts and discombobulating fury. Sounding, as ever, like Big Black firing pellets of snot at their Cleveland forebears Devo, ‘Rare Auld Trip/Psychological Garden’ finds them picking up where they left off with ‘Specialtronics Green Vision’. This being the best part of a year on from that excellent debut, though, they sound wiser, snarkier and more pissed off than ever before - good news all round, then.

Opener ‘Boredom In The Valley’ reintroduces their signature tricks but feels more focused; a sub-two minute blast of staggered beats powered by the gnarliest-sounding bass this side of Bob Weston, and a disaffected vocal styling that you’d be tempted to call nihilist if you couldn’t sense the number of fucks given beneath the impassive facade. They pick up the pace with ‘Staring At The Spiral’, which almost sounds like the Buzzcocks unravelling at the seams while a Vogon watches on, before crashing into the smash’n’grab antics of ‘The Plants’ - one of the record’s clear highlights and a frantic, dizzying trip. Along the way are enough bon mots and smartarse quips too make you wonder if they’re taking this as seriously as they should. Let’s not spoil the highlights in advance, but if you’re already on board with Knowso, you’ll know they’re simultaneously utterly hilarious and unquestionably, deadly serious.

‘I could never be friends with a fucker such as you,’ they snarl disgustedly on another of the record’s instant classics, but by this point you’ll already have given your heart over to this most delirious of post-punk/noise-rock hybrids. As the closing cacophony of voices on ‘4th Wonder’ will no doubt drive into your brain with overwhelming force, ‘Rare Auld Trip/Psychological Garden’ (you pays your money and you takes your choice with the title, presumably) is not to be missed.
Will Fitzpatrick

Our take: I feel like I never hear people talking about them, but for me Cleveland’s Knowso is one of the most distinctive and exciting punk bands currently putting out music. Maybe they haven’t caught on because it’s easy to get into the weeds thinking / talking / writing about everything surrounding their music. (Like, for instance, that there are at least three bands—Knowso, Cruelster, and Perverts Again—that share members and sound very similar, or that all of Knowso’s releases feature distinctive artwork from cartoonist Nathan Ward, who seems to be the band’s driving force, handling bass, guitar, and vocals.) However, when I put all of that shit aside, when I just put on this record and listen to it, I am fucking blown away every time. While I’m not 100% confident in my ability to distinguish Knowso, Cruelster, and Perverts Again in a blind taste taste, the sound here is instantly identifiable and utterly distinctive. Just like when you see a red Coke can and you know what it is no matter what language or script “Coca-Cola” is written in, once you hear this nervous, jittery punk with the paranoid-sounding, speak-sung vocals, you know you have landed squarely in this different universe (via Cleveland). And not only is the sound distinctive, it’s fucking great. The rhythms are so precise, creative, and memorable, similar to what bands like Lithics or Fitness Womxn are doing but much tighter, faster, and more confrontational. The riffs are also outstanding, and Knowso has great two-guitar dynamics, something I’m always a sucker for. All of that would make for an excellent band or record, but what pushes Knowso over the top for me are the lyrics. I’ve trained myself to ignore bland and even bad lyrics, but that is not a problem here. Actually, these lyrics are so great that I’m happy to sit and read the lyric sheet without putting the record on. I love lyrics (and other types of word art) that present you with a potent image and just sort of leave it there for you to roll around in your brain. (I’m reminded of an interview with Ian Mackaye where he pointed out the line “the milk bottles stand empty” in Wire’s song “Ex-Lion Tamer,” noting how that image said so little but so much at the same time.) Here are some of my favorite cryptic bits of wisdom: from “Turning Planet,” “Turning planet / I see you spin / a hundred miles in my shoes;” from “Boredom in the Valley,” “Old neighbor in the night car / Gotta sloppy gait when he walk to the car / Two way radio no signal / Ke8dyv.” I love those more cryptic lines, but it’s not just free jazz word salad. “You Lick the Boot” engages with the whole BLM / Defund the Police conversation, while “The Plants” is the environmentalist anthem only Knowso could write. Long story short, the eight songs on this record are modern punk masterpieces. Maybe they’re too weird for you, but they’re everything I want from punk. All hail Knowso.