A not-very-favourable review of The Knife’s gig in Brixton last thursday

Pretentious is a word which is often misused. It is taken to be synonymous with something long, ponderous and over-complicated. Such things are often pretentious, but that is not what the word means. I’ve just done a quick Google to save you the trouble, their definition is a good one.

“attempting to impress by affecting greater importance or merit than is actually possessed.”

This was a shit gig which pretended, not very convincingly, to be good. It’s like a magic trick. Everyone was fooled because everyone wanted to be. It’s like ‘The Prestige’ or something.

Writing this is heartbreaking, since Karin Dreijer Andersson is one of my favourite singers. The perhaps 8% of the gig where she stopped bullshitting around and sang a fucking song were pretty enjoyable. ‘Full of Fire’, along with a few others, was alright. The rest was not.

I was aware that dance would be a part of this gig, but not to the extent that the actual music would suffer. A confession: I hate dance, especially arty dance. God, it’s fucking dreadful. I’ll try to figure out why someday. Maybe it’s because once went to see The Rite of Spring and had my car towed. If I’m going to see a musical or something, then the dancing is tolerable, but I’m really only there for the music.

The first few songs featured a series of bizarre instruments. There was a long weird table with a bunch of string and drum pads attached to it. Unfortunately the sounds produced by these instruments could only be described as ‘attempted music’. Maybe it’s impossible to play such instruments in time or in tune – in which case they are fucking terrible instruments, which should not be brought on stage. A more likely culprit was terrible musicianship.

But so what, right? If you’re producing sound using an ash-hewn simulacrum of a quail’s rectum, then who the fuck cares about musicality? You’re pushing the boundaries of reality. Guitars and keyboards just don’t affect the required level of importance. I mean, we’ve all seen guitars and keyboards before, haven’t we? Get with the times, people! It’s all about the monochord!*

Who the fuck was singing? No-one knews. Perhaps that’s the point. I always thought the point of a gig should be musical performance, but not this gig. This gig is too clever for that. So, it seems, is this audience. Only an audience this clever could appreciate something so fucking dumb.

One claim I’ve heard repeatedly through comments sections, during my desperate search for validation following my ordeal, was that the music was good, even if it was mimed. Simply because we’re hearing music on the academy’s PA, which is, y’know, loud. Well, fuck me! I think every performance there henceforth will surely earn a minimum of five stars. Why fucking bother, right? What’s the point of even pretending to play live?

Sure enough, ‘One hit’ sounded incredibly like the one on the album, because it was the track from the album. Wow. They don’t even bother miming. Isn’t that clever? See how they are subverting our expectations? Well, I’m all for having my expectations subverted. It’s like going to see El Classico, only for the players to gather round the centre circle for a round of table-football. Colour my expectations subverted. Perhaps if we were to all have shat into our hands and flung the result stageward we would have subverted their expectations. That’s something I can get behind.

Occasionally a snippet of some motif from something I recognised as a Knife song would make its presence known, and draw cheers from a confused – though appreciative – audience. “Hooray”, everyone seemed to imply, “this is the riff from that song I like, maybe now we’ll hear something that even remotely resembles something I like.”

Then everyone was well chuffed at having that expectations subverted by the introduction of a neanderthalish house beat. It sounded like David Guetta had remixed a bunch of knife songs immediately after suffering massive burns to his hands and ears.

I can see how this would go down really well with people who don’t really like live music. I also note that Cheryl Cole has recently drawn huge criticism for appearing on national television and dancing around like a fuck while pretending to sing live. She should have got one of her backing band to play the bagpipes through a megaphone, such a move would surely have placed her at the bleeding edge of musical innovation, and the world would have surely rejoiced.

Only this sort of pretentious wank-off can five star reviews from The Guardian, The Independent et al. Had my expectations been sullied somewhat had I actually read the reviews of the gig, and discovered that the gig wasn’t a gig, but it was still a five-star non-gig. Seriously, music journalists and critics: do your jobs you insufferable fucking nobs.

While I’m at it, I hate music criticism, too. It is pointless. It need not convey anything that can be disputed. It’s just some cunt’s opinion (or lack thereof) expressed in a way that shows off how good they are at writing things:

As [the vocalist] wove [lyrical] themes of [alienation/yearning/hot chocolate] through a(n) <adjective> [morass/multi-storey car park/ikea] of [beats/guitars/basslines], and I couldn’t help but feel that something was missing…

If Richard Wagner ever really did advocate that this profession should be abolished, then he has never been more right. This is 2014. You can just go listen to the music rather than have some overeducated tosser tell you about it.

It’s really my fault for not researching this more thoroughly. I should have read the interviews, wherein the dance component of the tour is discussed. It’s a political statement, dancing, apparently. How the fuck this is the case, I’m not sure. I thought a political statement was one designed to influence someone’s opinion about something. Wow, look at the way that guy’s moonwalk. It really conveys how the common agricultural policy is in dire need of reform.

Almost done. Just one final observation about this band’s politics. It’s always struck me as curious that the best way to dismantle corporate hierarchies is to change people £30 to watch your shitty non-gig. And that this goal is achievable through the sale of wanky t-shirts bemoaning neoliberalism, for a further £20 in the lobby. I can only suppose that this irony is intentional.

Overall: This gig was excellent in the same way that Russell Brand is an excellent thinker and writer. Indeed, this is gig was revolutionary in the same sense that Brand’s book is.


Until next week.

*by this I mean no offense to the monochord, a worthwhile and noble instrument


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