Yep, that was yours truly busking in front of R5 Records & Video on Christmas Eve. A fellow’s gotta make a buck somehow, and with the day job at the formerly local digital music company disappearing at year’s end—as have so many jobs in America—down some Bangalore-bound rabbit hole, I was feeling a twinge of holiday desperation.
Now, the sweetest thing about doing the street-musician thing is the people you run into, the conversations that spontaneously arise. Close proximity to a record store means you’ll likely encounter people into music, so it came as no surprise when Scott Miller, he of a kajillion local bands including the English Singles, and his girlfriend, the epicurean blogger Becky Grunewald, stopped by.
“You heard the new album by Knock Knock?” Miller inquired. “Every song is great.” Grunewald smiled beatifically and nodded in agreement.
Sometimes that’s what it takes—a ringing endorsement from someone to move a CD from tabletop to player.
Another writer once described Bruce Springsteen’s breakthrough album Born to Run as a Detroit muscle car that lumbered down a Rust Belt main drag powered by melted-down Crystals and Ronettes 45s. If that’s spot on, then Girls on the Run, Knock Knock’s second album, is a turbo-charged, dual-overhead-cam ricer rod fueled by shredded Lindsey Buckingham tracks marinated in Red Bull. It’s pure pop music, or at least the indie-rock approximation of pop, some of which dances around the rumpus room like a kid who scarfed an entire box of Lucky Charms, while other tracks lope along like a sweetly psychedelic soundtrack to the Lone Ranger and Tonto riding into the sunset.
Like Miller said, there ain’t a bum track on the album, and there’s even one outright classic: “I Was Born,” one of the album’s less insistent numbers. That song has been rattling around my cranium since the first hearing, with its “I was born with the radio on, something on my mind” refrain sticking to my frontal-lobe flypaper like the bug equivalent of a great lost Yo La Tengo campfire singalong. Other cuts, like the more energetic “These Dreams Could Be a Memory,” whose forward-propelled guitar scaffolding occasionally lurches to a stop on a bittersweet chord, or the Fleetwood Mac-by-way-of-Buddy Holly title cut with harmonies layered like honey in baklava, are similarly endearing.
Let’s assume Allen Maxwell is the songwriter here, and, if so, this record is a huge leap forward; bass players often write fine pop tunes (consider Brian Wilson and Paul McCartney for a couple of stellar examples). Singer-guitarists Heather Conway and Mike Cinciripino, along with drummer Nicola Miller, may have had a hand there, too. Whoever it was who penned and fleshed out these tunes, the outcome is first-rate; if something else comes along locally that’s as godlike as this, we’re in for an excellent year around these parts.
Which is the best thing going; if the major labels continue to launch double-flushers like 3 Doors Down’s National Guard recruiting spot “Citizen Soldier,” you could do worse than go visit The Beat or Dimple or R5 and buy some locally produced music instead. Start with this album, and visit www.myspace.com/knockknocktheband if you don’t believe me.