Knowlton Road - 1999

Rating: ****
Best songs: Let Him Roll, Garbage Man, Just Us Two, I Love My Wife
Worst songs: Fowlerville, Sea Sick

 

Steve Knowlton (of the music review website Steve & Abe's Record Reviews) is an egotistical guy. Yeah, he'll deny it, but consider this: his backing band is called the "Knowl-tones", the album is called Knowlton Road, and the title track is on here not once, but twice.

Nevertheless, that's pretty much excuseable, since he's a talented songwriter. This album (the first of Steve's to feature the Knowl-tones, who are Jason Justian on keyboards, Mike Koch on bass, and Ken Pope on drums) is packed to the gills with pop goodness in the form of catchy melodies, neat chord progressions, above-average playing (Knowlton is an effective rhythm guitarist, Koch and Pope are a solid rhythm section, and Justian comes up with some cool keyboard parts), and uh, did I mention the good songwriting? The only real problem is Steve's singing -- he has a warbly southernish voice that takes getting used to.

Anyways, songwise there's plenty to sink one's mandibles into: uptempo garage rockers like "(I Wanna Be Your) Garbage Man" ('I wanna bang your cans'?), "It Don't Mean Nothing", and "Jessica" ('I wish something rhymed with her name' -- is it me, or is that one chord progression stolen from "Two Tickets to Paradise"?) bop and pop along next to some absolutely gorgeous ballads, the most notable of which are "Just Us Two" (incorporating the melody from that "Mockingbird" lullabye thing, and including the classic line 'grandma was smoking crack') and "Let Him Roll". I'm gonna break from the parenthetical to talk about "Let Him Roll" -- this song is brilliant. Even with the annoyingly Christian lyrics (sorry) in the last verse, it's a great great great great great song. Why can't I write stuff like that? Anyway, elsewhere on the album are the folky "Down By the Cattails" (featuring an actual guitar solo of sorts!) and the title track, presented twice, once as a solo version and once as a group version. The group version's better.

I could keep talking and talking like this: bla bla bla, but I'll wrap it up. Only two of the songs really rub me the wrong way: "Fowlerville" features some absolutely cringe-inducing singing, and "Sea Sick" is okay, but drags on for a little too long. In conclusion, allow me to reiterate: Steve Knowlton writes songs well. He doesn't sing so well, but don't let that bother you. He also benefits much from the Knowl-tones. And I like this album more than anything King Crimson has released. (Yes, the KC bashing continues)

Oh crap, I forgot to mention one thing! The lyrics on this album are sometimes clever but always sincere. I can tell because Steve really is a regular guy, not some pompous rock star. He says he loves his wife. I believe him. End of review.

One last thing: I think Weezer somehow stole the chords from "Knowlton Road" for "Island in the Sun". Don't ask me how. End of review.


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