Tuesday, January 25, 2011

REVIEW: Hands and Knees :: Wholesome

Hands and Knees :: Wholesome ~ Self Released ~ Boston, MA ~ January 18th, 2011
Available in 12" vinyl and limited screen print 12" vinyl

Hands and Knees :: "Sitting at the Piano Disappearing"

The classical guitar on the cover may be a bit misleading. Hands and Knees' new album Wholesome is a catchy, dance-friendly onslaught of garage-pop that also has depth and inventiveness both lyrically and musically. It's a style that inspires multiple listens. The addictive toe tapping tunes get you jumping around quickly and later you're struck with evocative and loaded images. On Wholesome it materializes in a few titles, such as "Throw Me from the Bridge of Flowers" and "Sitting at the Piano Disappearing," two standout tracks. Such surprises are strewn throughout and its refreshing to see a garage rock band give a damn about poetics.

2009's Et Tu, Fluffy? saw the band introducing a more forceful and ear-grabbing sound than their melodic self-titled debut, and it was rewarding. Wholesome maintains this strength, while at the same time exploring uncharted territory. Singer Joe O'Brien expressed his interest in making each song it's own adventure. In an interview with the Boston Globe he said, "I went through a year as a kid where I listened to Jimi Hendrix’s Are You Experienced every night before bed — not just that I loved blazing guitar solos, but I loved how every song was its own thing. The White Album is a great example of that." While every song on the record falls into the territory of rock and roll, each one find space to meander.

Boston bands like Hands and Knees have been playing so many noisy, low production basement shows with songs like "Dancing on Your Tears" that they have a right to change the term garage rock to basement rock. Other songs blend styles, borrowing furious blues riffs for the dark and feverous "99," a little do-wop swagger for "Close Your Eyes," and punk rock fury with "The Ballad of Cottonball Johnny." The acoustic makes unconventional appearances throughout (like the aforementioned "Cottonball Johnny"), but it does get a chance to hold its own for the bouncing folk "The Moonlight is Wicked" from a working man "whistling like a foolish old man." One could even consider the playful "Fieldtrip!" to be a foray into children's music.

The song "Feather Fly" is an acapella, snapping solo for the group's female vocalist, Carina Kelly. In a live session with Bands in Boston back in 2009, the group did a hilarious bluesy rendition of a Missy Elliott song. They incorporated this interest very tactfully on the new album, without it being tacky. Kelly's vocal presence is another thing that makes the group stand out. Each of O'Brien's growls and shrieks are punctuated by the melodic croons of Kelly. She even takes the helm to solo quite a bit on Wholesome. 

If nothing else, simply how fun the band is makes it worth listening. Wholesome is available in two different limited editions of vinyl on the group's bandcamp. Their album release show is January 27th at Great Scott in Allston, MA with  Doomstar, the Needy Visions and Fedavees. Every band on this bill is a favorite and it promises to be a riotous time.


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