Live Music + Gig Reviews

Young Knives + Howling Bells @ Garage, London

29 March 2006

Young Knives As many people will tell you, the British music scene is in a healthy state these days. Churning out an absolute string of bands with trendy clothes, indie style and attractive music, it often feels like we are in the middle of a huge guitar fuelled rock banquet. Young Knives represent yet another course.

A three piece outfit hailing from Oxford, featuring Henry on lead guitar, Stewie on drums and the brilliantly monikered House Of Lords on bass, they’ve actually been around for a while now. Making minor waves on the scene without anything big enough to rock the boat has so far been their speciality, but recently, with songs such as Here Comes The Rumour Mill, they’ve been growing in stature, and they certainly managed to pack out the Highbury Garage.

Effective support was provided by Howling Bells, an Australian indie country group I’ve never come across, but I hope to see a lot more of. Though they aren’t quite there yet, Juanita Stein’s voice stands out every time its made full use of. She must be tired of the endless comparisons to PJ Harvey, but at least they are compliments! However, the slightly dreamlike, ethereal nature of their work didn’t exactly fire the crowd up.

Young Knives finally showed after a rather extended sound check, to an enthusiastic reception. Rumour Mill and Elaine went down well, and they looked like a solid, professional outfit. However, in the end they produced what was a fairly anodyne set.

The problem is the sheer oversupply of stuff like this around. Bass, guitar, male vocals and drums has been done so many times before, that to copy this look only really leaves room to innovate on the quality of song writing. This can be done, of course, and one only needs to look at The Libertines or, more recently, the Arctic Monkeys, to know that a gift for lyrics and composition will always set you apart from the crowd. But it does need to be a gift.

Unfortunately, Young Knives just lack that spark, and even Howling Bells outshone them merely with the slight novelty of featuring a female vocalist. Each track failed to lift its head above the last, and the set tailed off into a fairly lukewarm finale.

Bizarrely, the Garage thinned out noticeably before the encore, almost as if the crowd felt they knew what was coming. I stayed until the end, but I must admit I did feel as if I’d seen it all before. British music is fantastic, and for that we should be thankful. But this sets the bar for greatness very high, and at the Garage the Young Knives really only made up the numbers.

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More on Young Knives
Young Knives – Barbarians
Interview: Young Knives
Young Knives – Sick Octave
Young Knives – Ornaments From The Silver Arcade
Young Knives – Superabundance