Out of the hiatus of the Australian drum and bass band, Pendulum, rise vocalist Rob Swire and bassist Gareth McGrillen’s Knife Party. Their work with Pendulum is heavily influenced by electronica, but it draws from the deep well of rock music as well. With Knife Party, the duo have gone full-EDM mode on us.
Leaked on iTunes suddenly last week (whether accidentally or purposefully we don’t know), Abandon Ship serves as their debut studio album and comes to us a month shy of their three month anniversary as a group. But it’s not like they’ve been sitting politely in a corner all this time waiting for their turn. Each year since their formation, Knife Party has added a new EP to their ever-increasing discography, with this latest offering easily taking the cake for being the most fleshed-out creation in the collection. Some dents materialize on the duo’s flashy exterior, but overall, Abandon Ship isn’t all smoke and mirrors; there’s some substance beneath the crushing bass and battering ram beats.
It doesn’t all start out that way, though. Opener “Reconnect” is as cheesy as the stuff you dollop on your nachos at the movies, with a faux-epic galloping beat underscoring the absurdity of it all. With the narrator spouting Tolkein-esque lines like, “we come to you with the soul of a proud knight,” it’s easy to feel skepticism slip in and wonder which direction this record is heading. The track is a valiant attempt to give Abandon Ship something resembling a concept, but it’s more cringe-worthy than anything else. All head-scratching ceases as soon as “Resistance” storms out of the neon mist though. Like the clamorous second track, the first half of this party (keeping in line with the record’s semi-medieval theme) charges forward like an army storming a castle.
The indelible swagger of “Boss Mode” brings in warped spoken female vocals that have a Nicki Minaj-like elasticity. With all her dabbling in the dance world recently, she’d be a shoo-in for a subwoofer-shaker like this. “EDM Trend Machine” is in constant motion, starting out sparse and evolving into a throbbing, sweaty club cut. Similarly, the four-to-the-floor heartbeat of “404” endows some life into a track that’s semi-composed of computer bleeps and bloops.
Moombahton was popularized stateside by the likes of Major Lazer, but the aggressive drop on “Give It Up” adds a filed edge that’s more in-your-face than Diplo’s island-flavored beats. We can probably chalk it up to Knife Party’s equal adoration of dubstep – that omnipresent bastard child of EDM. The duo’s colossal drops and wobbles are matched evenly by the drum-and-bass (the latter of which Swire and McGrillen are no strangers to).
The backside of Abandon Ship is where this party starts to get a little hazy. “Micropenis” is not only the oddest song on here (title aside), but one of the most mesmerizing beats on the record is wrecked because of a completely insipid concept (can you guess what it is?). The glittery, Saturday Night Fever inspired “Superstar” even questions its own existence, albeit with a tongue in cheek line (“Oh my god, what the fuck is this disco shit? What happened to the dubstep?”).
Boasting verses and lyrics that are too corny for even Bruno Mars’ retro reinvention as of late, “Superstar” almost misses entirely if not for its timely dancefloor breakdown at the end. I’m all for groups toying with new styles of music, but in this case, Knife Party should stick to what they’re good at, and that’s creating aggressive yet highly-danceable songs.
Keeping up with every fist-pumping second of Abandon Ship can be an exhausting (and occasionally homogenous) affair. By the time penultimate track, “Red Dawn,” takes the stage, you might be ready to press pause on this record (or think that you’ve already heard the song earlier). Thankfully, the pros outnumber the cons and Knife Party has dropped a debut that’s nothing to scoff at. Just be sure to stockpile some Monster and Red Bull before giving this a spin!