Review Summary: Though they still have the potential for much more satisfying performances, at this point, The Knife stands firmly on the ground, a little wobbly, but firm right where they're at.
Its something like a motif for electronic artists these days to watch the public from behind a masked espionage and see what their enemy, the media, will do with people next. Surely anyone who follows this trend are riding the bandwagon as we speak, right? ...Oh wait, Sweden's dynamic electronic duo The Knife are the only ones who do that. Actually, they are the only ones to do a lot of the things they do. Not figuratively, of course, but they do harbor a unique sound nonetheless, which really showed on both of their following records (Silent Shout & Tomorrow, In A Year). It is Deep Cuts, the album in question, however, that marked the first step in their quest to truly defining their sound, and for better and worse, makes for a great album.
You're probably wondering what "unique sound" they harbor exactly. Well you'll find that quickly once album opener Heartbeats kicks in. It's when Karin Dreijer begins to sing when it becomes most clear, but until then, you get to enjoy an intro that shows off their sound very well. You'll hear everything from fuzzy synths to the remotely tropical ambiance, which sets the tone for the rest of the album's loungey computer hums and flashy steel drum samples. And most of all, you'll notice how catchy
the damn thing is, all the way up to the chorus then back through the crest again. This shows off the improvement The Knife have made since their buggy 2001 self-titled debut; Karin's voice was good, now it's excellent, and they have made a more individual stance with their music in terms of lyrics and instrumentation.
Now that they've shown you what they can do, from here on out its The Knife flexing their musical muscles and splitting open their diversified spectrum. On their debut The Knife, you would have never found tracks as speedy as Listen Now, as charming as You Take My Breath Away, as fun as Girls' Night Out, or as goofy as Hangin' Out. Even though they have reached some infertile soil, they have successfully spread to new grounds all-in-all. In addition to the aforementioned Hangin' Out, together with The Cop they utilize bizarre humor to divvy up humorous intermissions at 2 points on the album. Even if they do add contrast to the flow of the record, they are both ultimately bridging filler tracks. Otherwise, there aren't as many bad songs as there are love-or-hate songs; One For You is a good song in that it stirs you up with its mystery-vibe and interesting lyrics, but that's if you can tolerate the slow pace and static song progression. Listen Now is a danceable song with catchy synths and a great chorus, but be warned that the verses are a bit annoying. And Rock Classics manages to sit perfectly between the bouncier You Take My Breath Away and Is It Medicine as a complete chill-out song, but the guitar they sprinkle across the song is probably the worst thing they ever did, and the yelling Karin does in the later half may rub some the wrong way. Another thing you either like or you don't, a factor present on several tracks, is Karin's typically non-singing brotherly producer, Olaf Dreijer, who lends his voice to The Cop, She's Having a Baby, Is It Medicine, Got 2 Let U, Hangin' Out, and Handy-Man. You may tolerate it for the fact that he shares similar accents and vocal ability as his sister (just deeper and manlier), but overall, he's just not as good a singer by far
. Adding his voice alongside Karin's does succeed in that it makes the record feel more alive and varied, but in the end his voice is a narrowly-acquired taste.
Some other things that make this record stand out include some jazzy steel drums and catchy computer-bleep riffs. Pass This On is blooming with the former, somehow making the song moodier, and This Is Now, along with The Bridge, exploit the latter as one of Deep Cuts' more refined aspects. Other mentionable songs include Got 2 Let U, which is catchy and very fun, and then Handy-Man for the same reasons. Behind the Bushes is a gloomy piece with some string and wind instrumentals, which is unique up until they play a melody way too reminiscent of Pearl Jam's Black. Nonetheless, this is a sturdy record that has taken The Knife one step higher in their musical ability. They have gone far to deviate this from their last album, giving this it's own unique, fun-loving, and fairly strange atmosphere. Though they still have the potential for much more satisfying performances, at this point, The Knife stands firmly on the ground, a little wobbly, but firm right where they're at.
-Pass This On
-Got 2 Let U
-You Take My Breath Away