Bent Knee – You Know What They Mean
Art Rock | Alternative Metal
Much like how the most compelling characters in great stories have depth, so too does the music from great bands. The most memorable heroes aren’t spotless paragons of virtue, they have flaws and faults that they overcome. The most captivating villains aren’t a bottomless well of pure evil, they have beguiling personalities and complex motives to make some part of us root for them deep down. The best bands do much the same thing with their music. It’s multifaceted; drawing inspiration from different styles, calling upon a wide range of emotions, unafraid to push boundaries in the service of expression. Bent Knee have always been a fine example of this, eclectic, inventive and passionate, and the new album is no exception.
The caveat with complex characters and multifaceted music however is that people often find themselves drawn to different sides of them. One person’s flaw or failing, someone else will find endearing. What I personally grew to love about Bent Knee over their past couple of records was their balance between madness and melody. They are as mad as a box of frogs, but now matter how outlandish things get they still know how to make a damn good hook. Many other people however became fans after being impressed by the power and ferocity of their live performances. You Know What They Mean is very much an album for the latter group. Tracks like ‘Bone Rage’ and ‘Lovemenot’ feature the kind of hard-hitting riffs and all encompassing walls of sound that make this their heaviest record to date.
The trouble is that in moving further towards this aspect of their sound, they also find themselves moving away from the aspects I enjoy most. I relish the odd heavy moment here and there, but when it seizes the spotlight to such a degree, it ends up pushing nuance and melody aside. When you have one of the best singers in the world right now in Courtney Swain, it’s a damn shame when even her powerhouse vocals can occasionally get lost in the mix. The record does still have some fabulous moments however. Ben Levin’s soulful solo at the end of ‘Cradle of Rocks’ is just to die for; brief but oh so beautiful. I also can’t help but adore the way ‘Golden Hour’ builds from its ethereal opening to a gloriously triumphant climax.
Reviewing music is a battle between head and heart. You have to find the right balance between how good a record is objectively speaking, and how it connects with you on a personal level. This has been one of the most difficult records to find the balance with in recent years. My head is 100% right in thinking that with You Know What They Mean, Bent Knee have perfectly nailed the sound they were going for, and for fans of their heavier side this will be their best work to date. My heart is ultimately calling a little louder though, saying that this album fails to capture what makes me love this band.