The Knobs – Guilt

The Knobs

The cover of The Knobs’ new album shows a boy whose face is half in light and half in shadow. It’s an interesting dichotomy and one that I can hear on Guilt. These are pure indie pop songs, taking hints from the melodies of The Beatles and The Beach Boys as well as structure and style from Built to Spill and The Flaming Lips. The songs are sometimes dark and moody and others uplifting and vibrant. The lyrics alternate between somber introspection and cheerful good-natureness. And it’s a style that works for The Knobs. It sounds like they are a pop band that wanted to do more than just create another Beatles-influenced modern pop album, and that’s what Guilt turns out to be.
“Pour it On” starts off sounding almost like a Hayden song, soft and depressing, just a singer and acoustic guitar. The other instruments come in for the chorus, and the vocals get higher and prettier. This over six-minute song has elements of introspection and elements of elation. There’s even some strings and organ here. “Run” has a more upbeat rhythm but still has a darker undertone, due in large part to the perfect blend of the soft vocals and the guitar work, as well as the low-bass cello. “Have Mercy Tonight” has a kind of urgent intensity but the most rock-catchy chorus and backing vocals. “We’ve Got It All” is probably the most fun track and the most bouncy. The vocals are perfect, with perfect harmonies, and there are lots of horns in here to make this a fun, happy track. I can’t help but think of some of the bouncy Brit-pop bands that play this style of pop. There’s some definite White Revolver-era Beatles influence here. “Circuit Rider” is keyboard-laden track with some surf-rock sounding background guitars, at times almost sounding like a cross between a Depeche Mode song and a James Bond theme song. “Cut Out Bins” has a 70’s feel to it too, even throwing in some twangy guitar for effect. “Edgemoor Mural” is another stand-out pop track that has the feel of several different styles but is addictive on its own largely because of the vocals, including a whole “ba-ba-ba-ba” part. I’m a sucker for those parts. And the album ends with the mellow Beatles-esque “Mr. Fosters Lament.”
All the elements of a poppy, melody-laden album are here, but The Knobs sound to me like a band that’s done that already. Now they’re looking to do something more, something more mature. This album has a very big sound, very full. And the music has a somber mood behind it. But it’s still pop, catchy and excellent. I can’t help but think of the way The Flaming Lips have modified their sound for their last, well-received album, creating a fuller, more mature pop sound. The Knobs are doing the same thing, and they have crafted an excellent pop album.