Review: 31Knots – The Days and Nights of Everything Anywhere

Label: Polyvinyl Records

Released: March 6, 2007

Often a great album is one where everything comes together in ways unimagined with hooks that make one wonder how anyone could write something that instantly likable. Other times, great albums take effort. The Days and Nights of Everything Anywhere, 31Knots’ fourth full-length release, is like that. A consistently unsettling work, it achieves this by juxtaposing different styles, creating discord that runs deeply throughout the album. The result is an uncomfortable listen, yet one that is not to be missed.

From the opening moments of electronic noise on the first track, “Beauty,” 31Knots manage to challenge. With its agitated vocals, simple piano bass pattern, harsh staccato guitar and odd math rock rhythms, it creates a blueprint for the album as a whole. But that blueprint is very general, because the tension it creates is never done in quite the same way from cut to cut.

For instance, “Savage Boutique” mixes alternating vaudeville and baroque pop and a subtle hook in the horns with vocals that sound as if they’re sung straight from a padded cell. Call and response vocals and fuzzy, jangly guitar pull at the loose ambling rhythm of “The Salted Tongue” while smooth interludes break the tension. Cold electronics give way to hints of pop and then let loose with prog guitar riffs on “Hit List Shakes.”

The rough vocal melody of “The Days and Nights of Lust and Presumption” is just shy of having single potential, yet the quick guitar blasts and a simple bass drum rhythm keep it off kilter. It leads into the album’s most accessible song, the near pure prog of “Imitation Flesh,” but it’s only accessible insofar as it’s perhaps the only song on the album that can be pigeonholed into an existing genre.

The Days and Nights of Everything Anywhere closes with the low-key, but still disturbing, “Walk With Caution.” Thin, dirty vocals suddenly give way to a cleaner, impassioned voice (somewhat reminiscent of U2’s Bono) and echoey church bells. The sounds of a scratched record and sad, but heavenly voices join in before the song, and therefore the album, closes with the soft ambient dissonance of an old sci-fi flick. It is perhaps a perfect finish even if it leaves more discomfort than satisfaction.

This is an album that borders on both pop and sanity, yet both seem to (diliberately) elude it. It is so often just a hair shy of pop perfection and manic collapse all at once and that is what makes it brilliant. The musicianship is deceptively strong, but never indulgent and the absence of glossy hooks forces the music to be taken on its own merit, exposed in a way that’s bold and honest. The Days and Nights of Everything Anywhere is not the kind of album that is easy to like. It’s not really even the kind of album that can be enjoyed. But it is definitely the kind of album that is worth experiencing. It is difficult, but isn’t that the road to enlightenment?

Rating: 8/10

About bobvinyl

bobvinyl, writer and co-editor of No Song is an Island, founded its predecessor, Rock and Roll and Meandering Nonsense (whose archives are found here), in 2005 and served as editor and principal contributor until it went on hiatus in 2010. He has also been published in AMP and Loud Fast Rules! (in print) as well as Glide and FensePost on the web. He has been an avid record collector since he was seven years old and enjoys sharing his love of music from the common to the esoteric.

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