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CD Review: The Knitters – The Modern Sounds Of The Knitters

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I first saw X in the documentary Decline And Fall Of Western Civilization. They were one of the best bands featured and even though their music posessed a ragged punk charm it was vastly different from the hardcore punk of bands like Black Flag, Germs, and Circle Jerks. It was as if time traveling musicians from the Fifties had been dropped into the Los Angeles punk rock scene and told to adapt. Rockabilly, blues, country, and punk collided for a potent blend of rock and roll. But the time travelers got homesick and in 1985 three of them joined forces with a couple of Blasters to form The Knitters. The punk spirit, which some could argue is but an echo of the original rock and roll one, was present on Poor Little Critter In The Road, but the music was a throwback to blues, folk, country, and rockabilly. It was just a side project, but it’s now regarded as a country punk classic. It’s even had its own tribute album and now twenty years later The Knitters are back.

It doesn’t offer up the novelty of the first album for the simple fact is we know they can do more than punk. The Modern Sounds Of The Knitters has a little more studio shine than Poor Little Critter In The Road; think of it as a movie sequel filled with the things you loved about the original blockbuster with a few extra special effects. There are no car chases, but there’s a good helping of new originals with some good and not so good cover songs. The Modern Sounds Of The Knitters isn’t really all that modern and this is good.

The band is at their best when John Doe and Exene Cervenka’s fractured harmonies meet. The ‘tombstone shoes” of the X song “In This House That I Call Home” have worn well. There’s a sequel within the sequel as the chicken stomping “Wreckin’ Ball” gets an update. This time he’s killing cattle and the results are hilarious for all non-bovines. Dave Alvin’s “Dry River” is a yearning spiritual while “Long Chain On” finds Alvin layng down some tasty reverb picking. The only real misses are the cover of “Burning House Of Love” which doesn’t come close to matching the intensity of the orignal and a misguided cover of “Born To Be Wild” that gets its motor running on terrible early before heading out the highway toward awful. Thankfully it’s the last song on the album so it can easily be avoided. Let’s hope we don’t have to wait twenty years before The Knitters record a third album.

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