Monday 1 December 2014
Review of 'Shiny Eyed Babies' by Bent Knee
Massachusetts six-piece, Bent Knee, are the type of bananas band that likes to dabble in every genre going. These type of bands don’t come along very often, and for a weirdness-worshipper like myself who adores the Frank Zappas and Mr. Bungles of the world its always exciting when they do.
Bent Knee’s speciality as showcased on this album is an ability to yo-yo magnificently between ying and yang. In the space of one song they can shift from harsh prog metal riffage to placid ambience (‘Being Human’,the track featured below, being a prime example). The group’s ability to contrast is further demonstrated by lead singer Courtney Swain, who matches dainty indie-folk singing with manic warbling.
Usually a band this absurd would have a bit humour to them, which is my one real gripe with Bent Knee – they sometimes come across as a bit melodramatic. Saying that, they aren’t entirely stoic. There’s a theatrical, campy horror vibe to some of these tracks, especially present in the dark rendition of ‘You are my Sunshine’. In fact, Bent Knee seem to revel in putting an evil twist on happiness. Several tracks feel bright and triumphant in mood but are lyrically morbid. Others shift melodically such as the closer ‘Toothsmile’, which starts softly and sweetly before descending into a long and torturously sinister detune.
Knowing that any song could break into dissonance or suddenly get evil definitely adds a suspense to this album. Generally, these mood shifts aren’t abrupt and the band take the time build up from quiet to loud. This makes the record deeply atmospheric as supposed to being a schizophrenic stop/start job like the aforementioned Mr. Bungle (not that either is bad). Saying that, although atmopsheric, Shiny Eyed Babies isn’t the type of jam you put on in the background whilst trying to work. It demands attention like a monkey juggling knives, and you’d have to be brain-dead to ignore it.