I really enjoyed The Small Knives’
first record, Rain on Tin
, released in 2004 through Candle. It’s a familiar bunch of slow, sad, earthy, but notable tunes - not only for some uncomplicated yet gorgeously sweet and tender melodies (see Flashlight
, Paper Wings
, Hardin Your Heart
), but direct, personal storytelling and simple yet evocative lyrics – (‘The contour of her teardrop like a raindrop on a vine’ from Down The Line
is perhaps the best example of their lyrical talents). However, despite a number of strong tunes, the record is a bit too stark and introspective towards the end so whenever I listen I usually avoid three out of the last four tracks.
The Small Knives latest album, Smoke and Ribbons,
retains the intimacy and organic feel of Tin
, but with less overall detachment, it radiates greater warmth both thematically and musically than its predecessor, Also, with a better sequencing of tracks than Rain on Tin
, overall, it's a stronger record.
Some of the best moments on Smoke and Ribbons
are when the Knives leave the sadness behind, and let the band go to town such as on the wonderfully rousing pair of Hey!
and Easter Everywhere
sincerely recalls a lustful lovestruck adolescent (‘She takes off her green summer dress/I lie and listen to her breath) and is the closest thing to a radio friendly hit they have written to date. I’m not sure what they’re on about with the religious themed Easter Everywhere,
but whatever it is, it feels quite inspiring and spirited.
It is also interesting to hear Richard Buckner’s influence on the album. Leo Mullins’ raw robust drawl and the driving metaphors in the lyrics of Turnaround
are quintessential Buckner rock (There’s a window on the backseat and we’ll keep it wound down) , while the haunting closer Space and Time
reflects the atmospheric yet earnest dreaminess of Buckner’s performance at the Corner earlier in the year.
Other highlights include Summer
, which fondly recalls holidays of past with poetic aplomb (Underneath the mango tree/The heat all around us/We could disappear for hours), as well as the tender balladry of The Kitchen
.Smoke and Ribbons
is unquestionably a thoroughly honest and affectionate record. While the Small Knives will never ever be one the coolest bands in Melbourne, after listening to this record, one would find it hard to argue they are not one of the finest.
Labels: the small knives