By: Eric G.
Blonde Redhead has only recently pulled itself away from the enveloping shadow of Sonic Youth references in both its music and reviews. Knocked Out Loaded is the next generation of New York City experimental noise pop, trailing just behind Blonde Redhead, and you can be sure this band will be dogged by references not only to Sonic Youth but also, ironically, to Blonde Redhead. This is a double-edged sword, of course. Where Blonde Redhead’s similarities to Sonic Youth were peripheral, Knocked Out Loaded uncomfortably mimics Blonde Redhead right down to the off-kilter guitar interplay and even the breathy, sexy female Japanese vocals.
Most bands wear their influences pretty blatantly when they first start recording, but Knocked Out Loaded could almost pass for a Blonde Redhead tribute band. This is dangerous position for a novice band. Ever heard of The Essence? How about Camouflage? Those bands were little more than jokes because they aped the trademark sounds of The Cure and Depeche Mode, respectively, and never successfully distinguished themselves from their obvious influences. The tricky part here is that Knocked Out Loaded has the potential to flourish on its own. While the band may be teetering close to the edge of thievery on this EP, there are definite signs of escape.
Knocked Out Loaded packs each song full of dueling, melodic guitar runs and weird electronic noises all sheathed in dark textures. Sometimes the lyrics don’t fit the emotional content of the music, though: “Did you find the Discman?/does it still work?” (“Dashed Off”). It’s easy to be put off by the indulgent pretense of New York City-style experimentation- a stigma Sonic Youth used to be able to overcome through solid songwriting but have recently fallen victim to with a string of lackluster efforts. Knocked Out Loaded seems too wrapped up in style and imitation to escape the inherent pretentiousness of its songs right now. If the band doesn’t shed its borrowed skin soon, it may miss the brief window of opportunity to redeem itself to an increasingly unforgiving indie rock community.