31 Aug 2014
Album Review: Hot Knives
Reviewed by Nathan Ford
A real treat for cratediggers here. The inaugural release on Jeremy Cargill's (Ugly Things magazine) Got Kinda Lost label pulls together both singles and a bunch of previously hard to find studio recordings from San Francisco's Hot Knives, dating roughly from around 1976.
The presence of former Flamin' Groovies members Tim Lynch on guitar and Danny Mihm on drums ensures a certain, muscular powerpop presence, but it's the dual lead vocals of brother/sister act Michael and Debra Houpt that lend Hot Knives their most distinctive trait, leading them down the rabbit hole into the psychedelic folk-rock scene of the then recent San Francisco past - an influence driven home by a reverent, affectionate cover of Moby Grape's "Hey Grandma" (included here). This mixture of (what at the time must have been viewed as passe) folk-rock and straight-up crunchy powerpop must have been a bit of a hard sell at the time. After a couple of listens I was still on the fence with this one, feeling somewhat uncomfortable being pulled in both directions at once. Further immersion however has seen things settle and these previously uncomfortable bedfellows are now getting along very nicely, with the disparate strands of their sound meshing to the point where I'm now at a bit of a loss to explain why it didn't make sense to me on a first listen. Oh well. Better late than never.
The contents of this here collection sit together rather nicely as an album too, despite the fact that these tracks were never intended to act as such (or so I gather). There's plenty of highlights which showcase both the variety on offer here as well as the distinctiveness with which they assimilate their influences. "Secrets About Me" is a seemingly straightforward folk-rocker, but boasts a sublime, descending arpeggiated guitar figure during the chorus which recalls George Harrison. "Around the World" could be an early seventies Grateful Dead single. And "Winter's Come" bears all of the trademarks of a Southern rock anthem, but is executed with a conciseness that betrays a thorough immersion in classic powerpop.
I can highly recommend this one, especially to those who like later psych / folk-rock opuses like "Inside the Shadow" by Anonymous. It'll be very interesting to see what else surfaces on the Got Kinda Lost label in the future, Cargill has a knack for sorting the wheat from the chaff.
There's a super limited edition vinyl version of this with all sorts of inserts and bonus material available here.
There's also a CD version available here for those who like it that way too.