Review: Skinny Knowledge – ‘Don’t Turn Out The Lights’

The name on the cover might say Skinny Knowledge, but in essence, ‘Don’t Turn Out The Lights’ is a solo-effort from multi-instrumentalist Andy L Smooth. With the South of England vocalist/guitarist playing all instruments on the album, as well as tackling his first shot at songwriting, this is very much his baby. After a period of disillusionment with music, the likeable frontman had an epiphany and realised that the way ahead involved getting his thoughts down on paper and turning those thoughts into songs. The end result being ‘Don’t Turn Out The Lights’, 14 choice cuts of ripped, life-affirming, power pop/punk/alt-rock fuelled shitkickers (including one gonzo instrumental) that picks the pockets of major-label artists stuck in a rut everywhere and in need of getting some hunger back.

For an album so full of energy and piss and vinegar, ‘Don’t Turn Out The Lights’ starts quite low-key with a Foo Fighters-like call-to-arms on the album title track. Fuelled by a wall of feedback on the intro and some fantastic drumming from Smooth (who happened to drum in all his previous bands), this is a track that smoulders away, while gradually building towards the money shot. This comes in the huge, soaring, Biffy-esque mid-section (‘Only Revolutions’ era) which is tailor-made for audience participation in a crowded field somewhere when festivals get the green light. The energy is ramped up for ‘Imagination’ which comes off as a ballsy mash-up of McFly covering some Green Day with a few verses of the Foos thrown in for good measure (especially as the sound takes a turn to the left and the vocals become harsher). It’s simple, hook-laden music, played really well: and it’s just the one dude playing everything. ‘Alive’ is propelled forward by a big-ass bass sound, which hangs around for ‘King Of Nothing’, a track that should put a smile on the face of any Ginger Wildheart fan.

‘Keep Me Out Of It’ has the “bounce-ability” factor, big bloody vocal hooks that reel the listener in and rattle around the brain for some time afterward. Weezer-ish to an extent, but with an Anglo touch. The mid-album trio of ‘Getaway’, ‘Sayonara’, and ‘Wheel Of Love’ is a pretty damn potent twelve-minutes or so. Power-pop vocals and energy during the early stages of ‘Getaway’, which coupled with the Wildhearts-ish vibe, later on, give the track some added snarl. ‘Sayonara’ has heaps going on throughout it; killer power chords and big, big riffs, sinister, whispered vocals, followed by humongous layered vocals, then a heavy breakdown that seems to come out of nowhere. ‘Wheel Of Love’ is a power-ballad, pure and simple, it’s a power-ballad. And nowt wrong with that when it’s as good a power-ballad as this. Like all good power-ballads, it follows the slow-fast-slow trajectory as required by UN regulations, and also features a trademark power-ballad guitar-solo where the video would feature the flash bastard lead guitarist doing that leaning-back-while-strangling-their-guitar schtick. Through in some light piano and voilà, instant success.

Ending on a killer one-two of ‘Heavy Metal Interlude’, an instrumental that does what it says on the tin (once a drummer always a drummer), and the towering ‘Stand Alone’ (latter-day MCR before the split, jamming with Weezer? Maybe?), this is a pretty damn special debut album. Considering that this is Andy’s maiden voyage as a songwriter, he shows a great knack for writing well-constructed songs. Has it been mentioned already that he performs every instrument himself? And men are supposed to suck at multi-tasking…tsk, tsk. Since recording the album, Andy has been joined by three like-minded fella’s and Skinny Knowledge are now a band in the truest sense. Watch this space.

Available March 5th, pre-order here.

Review – Dave

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