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Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
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Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
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The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
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No Age - Everything in Between
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Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Fat Possum
31 Knots
Talk Like Blood
Polyvinyl Records

Rating: 8.5/10 ?

November 27, 2005
I got into music the wrong way: recycled garbage first, core original music later. As the generations advance, it is becoming harder for youth to pay their respects to those that led to what is now considered contemporary music. For example, instead of seeing the New York Dolls and MC5 as punk originators, teens nowadays call bands like Green Day and Blink 182 "seasoned vets" because that shit has been thrown down their throats circa Puberty Day One.

Few people find music for themselves anymore without some radio station or corporate juggernaut (hey Best Buy, ol' friend) telling them where to look; to say that all of what comes out today is recycled garbage wouldn't be true but it's not that far from reality.

So sets the aggravating context for a rock release of 2005 that sits in the upper echelon of this year's releases, but will never get notoriety because it isn't being played on huge radio stations, it doesn't host a commercial-used single and Target most likely won't stock it. In any case, this is a release you don't have to dig back for; it's right now and all yours for the claiming.

Talk Like Blood is the third full-length release from Portland, OR based group 31 Knots, and acts as the group's coup-dee-grass, its unanticipated crowning achievement. The release blends a cutting edge with a paving finesse that no other rock recording has done in some time. Some call this technicality cum refinement an air of prog rock, but when I think of prog I think of King Crimson and Rush. 31 Knots shows nothing in common with the style that these 80s experimental rock nerds did. More so, this Polyvinyl Records band relies on the essence of a more modern musical characteristic: the repetitive sample.

At the core of Talk Like Blood are patterns. The first track, "City of Dust", begins the looping quality with a thunder clap-on-tin-roof percussive intro. After a rhythm is grasped, additional instrumental elements are thrown in - first an Andrew Bird-esqe looping violin melody, then singer Joe Haege's slightly sharp but attractive vocal utterances and finally, blaringly clean guitars and cutting live drum sounds.

Just as the release as a whole would surprise an unknowing listener, each progressive track will bowl over those sitting through the entire work. Track two ("Hearsay") is a curveball to the "City of Dust" changeup. The tempo is similar to the lead track but the style is much different, and the mood comes at you from a totally different angle. "Hearsay" grinds more, moves more laterally and skips with a morbid energy. Especially likable is Haege's wordplay and pretty vocal harmonies, including, "See teeth just gnashing/Blueblood on blackboard/Swallow a mouthful, over and over."

While still in baseball terms (I'm still high on the White Sox), Talk Like Blood runs an excellently varied pitch sequence - something like: changeup, curveball, fastball ("Thousand Wars", minute and a half long), knuckleball ("Intuition Imperfected", slow tempo, synth-inflicted stomper), forkball ("Chain Reaction", bottomed-out bass lines and dodgy guitar work), pitch-out (Untitled Track, filler experimental material), inside cut fastball ("A Void Employs a Kiss", pounding and heavy track with tons of transitions), junk pitch ("Proxy and Dominion", a classic piano-led tune on crack) and two hard pitches on the corner for the final strikes ("Talk Like Blood", a string-section distorted riff leading ballady guitars and punctuating drums, and "Busy is Bold").

It might be very appropriate then to compare 31 Knots' Talk Like Blood to the 2005 World Series Champion Chicago White Sox: no one expected much out of them, but they threw everything they had into a varied mix of approaches, and when it came down to it, gritty flavor and creative heart was what made them successes. Who doesn't want to be on that side?

Reviewed by Josh Zanger
Joshua Ian Zanger, a native of rural Chicago, rocks many a world with his writing, style, and generally sweet aroma.

See other reviews by Josh Zanger



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