Minor Keys – Pocket Knife

Written By: Michael Elwood

This review ain’t no easy task, seeing as PocketKnife eschews notions of genre. These Brooklynites self-identify as an Indie/Pop/Rock outfit (on MySpace, anyway), but there’s no denying substantive elements of Electronica, Ska, Funk and Jazz in the group’s sound.

PocketKnife rocked Glasslands Gallery (located on Some Dark-Ass Road, Williamsburg, Brooklyn, New York, the United States of America, Earth) on Tuesday, same night ______ rocked ______ in the second Presidential debate. ______ spanked ______ like an unruly schoolboy! ______ in ’08!

Being a trio, they’re a bit of an endangered species. Sure, you’ve got your Creams and your Nirvanas and your Husker Dus (wish I knew how to add umlauts) and your Rushes and your Police and whatnot, but successful trios are going the way of the dodo. I’ve got a feeling PocketKnife is gonna be around for awhile.

They played eight widely disparate tracks on Tuesday night. Some fast, some slow, some old (I’ve followed these guys for awhile), some new. Two standouts:

“Buy Back the Boat”—Drummer Robby Sinclair embraces negative space in this, one of their more fully realized tracks. His restrained, syncopated beat allows the song to breathe, fostering an atmosphere of tentative expectation. The other two fellas respond in full, breathing color and texture into an already sexy song with a smoky, step-down bassline (compliments of Jordan Brooks) and emotive vocal by Colin Killalea. Minimal as hell, nary a stray note. I’ve no idea what this song “means,” nor do I care. Colin’s mournful (yet oddly optimistic) phrasing over the outro—“we know/nothing is wrong”—nearly breaks my heart every time I hear it.

“Color Guard”—My personal fave. Robby ditches the sticks and manipulates an electronic kit/synth/turntable thing (clearly I’m an ignoramus), blanketing Colin’s rhythmic strummings with a futuro dance beat. Now’s as good a time as any to mention that PocketKnife makes great use of dissonance—their non-traditional approach to key and timing challenges the tired song structures we’re all acquainted with. Here, the beat crayons wildly outside the lines, offering a Floydian approach (think the bassline to “Money”) to dance rock. PocketKnife builds “Color Guard” well, complementing that opening sequence with an animated electric bass (Jordan gets funky) ’til the whole thing disintegrates into jubilant cacophony.

Words, of course, are no proper substitute for the real thing. Be sure to see ‘em live—they play all over New York. Listen here

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