Ever since Rocket From The Tombs gave way to Pere Ubu and The Dead Boys, Cleveland’s been producing endless shots of adrenaline courtesy of the wildest, weirdest sounds around. Knowso may not have much sonically in common with their city’s elder statesmen, but they’re following in the same spiritual tradition, blasting away with a take on punk rock that’s tense, spiky and powerful. Following on from their ‘Look At The Chart’ 12” for California’s premier trash-rock stable Neck Chop, and a 7” for Total Punk, ‘Specialtronics Green Vision’ is their debut album - and as full-lengths go, it’s a helluva first offering.
Cuts like ‘Calamine’ echo the likes of Devo in their jerked-out fury, but whereas there’s a whole raft of slopcore bands in recent years who’ve focused on the other-worldly side of Mothersbaugh and co., Knowso rub their angular tendencies against clenched-teeth riffage and a brutal sense of righteous outrage. The effect is somewhere in between Steve Albini’s more pointed rackets, Black Flag in both ‘weirdo freakout’ and ‘perfect slice of fury’ modes, and (unexpectedly) even the screwy rhetoric of Welsh wonders Future Of The Left.
They have a killer CV - Knowso boast members of Cruelster, Perverts Again and Cloud Nothings among their line-up - but still, this is a record that sounds everything and nothing like those bands, with a healthy number of bonus ingredients thrown in. ‘Peaceful And Extinct’ shows them at their smartarse best, bouncing between (hey, bear with me) tasteful riffology and sheer power, while ‘Digital God’ is just a heads-down thrill ride. But hey, it’s a record full of surprises and wonder, like ice cream topped with barbed wire, and it’s one of the best things you’ll hear all year. Insert your own ‘think so? I knowso’ joke here; I’d write one myself but I’m too busy putting this on repeat play for the rest of forever.
Our take: After a 12” EP and a 7”—both of which I loved—Cleveland’s Knowso give us their debut album, the bizarrely titled Specialtronics Green Vision. Let me say this straight off the bat: I fucking love this band. They sound like no one else (save their related bands Perverts Again and Cruelster), their music is catchy, energetic, and memorable, and their lyrics have a rare mixture of cynicism, surrealism, and profundity that I could eat with a spoon. It’s a brilliantly conceived thing that hangs together perfectly, and when I listen my body jerks along with their angular, over-caffeinated rhythms while my brain chews on whatever snatches of lyrics I can grab as they fly by. It feels futile to construct an “if you like x, you might like Knowso” is analogy because their music is so singular. Either you get and appreciate what they’re doing or you don’t… there doesn’t seem to be much room for middle ground. You’ve got the internet, though, so give this a listen and figure out which side of the fence you’re on.