Steve Knowlton And The Knowl-Tones

Bribery Review #Jillion
*special introductory paragraph!
*Half Jasons
*Spackle And Grout EP

The Bribery Review is a novel concept and a good one. You send me your little CD or tape of your little band, along with $4 and I will (A) send you a Mark Prindle CD by Mark Prindle and (B) review your little band on the most popular music site on the Web, Sports Illustrated. I can’t promise a POSITIVE review, but I can promise that I won’t give you a grade lower than a 1. You paid the money, you deserve special treatment. Today’s entry is a four-piece called Steve Knowlton And The Knowl-Tones. They are from Ypsilanti, Michigan and have a piano in the band! If you’re interested after reading my reviews, you can contact Steve Knowlton at 1356 Rambling Road in Ypsilanti, Michigan 48198. And Steve stresses in his letter that the band should always be called either “Steve Knowlton And The Knowl-Tones” or just “Knowl-Tones,” but never just “Steve Knowlton,” because, regardless of the name of the band, which clearly features his full name in addition to a SECOND variation on his last name, while not featuring any of the other band members’ names AT ALL, he insists that they are a full band and not just a vanity project by a talented songwriter and a bunch of easily replaceable scabs with goatees.

Half Jasons - Crabapple Tapes 2000.
Rating = 6

Ooooh ahhh - here we go. Starting things off with some cool lounge jazz! The piano is jivin’, the drummer’s a cocklin’, the guitarist is stringin’ and the singer is singing in an untrained, southernish, slightly wavering and occasionally note-missing accent about “Saskatchewan”! Great start. Moody, shakity, wild and hip. DARK! Okay enough of this - let’s try track 2. WHEE! It’s a sixties-style guitar rocker! Garage pop rock! Barbarians! Hombres! Awesome! “She’s My Venus”!!!! Hilarious lyrics about the PLANET Venus, not the Goddess! Love it! I wanna hear it again! Handclaps! Great riff! Standells! Nova Local! FUCK YEAH!!!! Great song. GREAT SONG! Okay enough of this one - track 3. Drum fade in. An organ playing a slow, generic but nice little melody. OOOOH! Excellent vocal melody. Absolutely elegant and gorgeous, whether or not you like the guy’s homestyle meatloaf voice (it grows on you, believe me - I hated it at first, but it’s okay! He sounds like a nice guy) - HEY! Muted horns! Nice song. Would be nothing without the great vocal melody, but so be it. “My Love Is A Rock” - reminds me of an old radio hit that went “Love can rock you! Never stop you! Ah! Love is like a rock!” Who sang that one? Let me know. Okay - track 4. Bouncy bubblegum music! “Michigan Stomp” though? Stomping in Michigan? Like, as in the STATE? Nah. Don’t like this song. Too silly and the melody is pretty weak. NEXT ONE! Ooo. Groovy bass intro. Slow song. More organs. Great piano/organ guy in this band! Nice addition. Give him a bubbletie. This one sounds like The Doors. Strange Days. Real dark and mysterious, but with your next door neighbor singing! Good one. On to track 6. A song about Marco Polo. Something about this song makes me hate it with every ounce of my being. Which is odd considering that it has the same exact guitar line as the Dead Kennedys’ “Forward To Death,” which I love. Maybe that’s why it annoys me? NO NO - it’s the call-and-response “Marco! Polo!” chorus. Who knows. It just doesn’t ring of “creativity” like the best songs on here do. On we go to “Downriver Girl.” A slower ballad with really, really pretty guitar chords but a miserably pissoff annoying jovial cutesy piece of shit keyboard break that makes me want to strangle everybody that has ever been associated with They Might Be Giants. On we go - OOO! Another awesome upbeat 60s-style song - these are my favorites. This song was stuck in my head for the first hour of my day today - it’s called “So Glad I Fell In Love” and it is just an absolutely PERFECT pop song - bouncy, Monkeesish with this fantastic repeating lead guitar break after each chorus. Jeez Louise, these guys can write a killer ‘60s song! What’s next? “Oh, Lois.” Hmm. A flute. Slow ballad. Sounds like a soap opera. The last thing I would ever want to do is say bad things about a song that a man wrote for his girlfriend and/or wife. So instead, I will move on to track 10. Hmm. Another upbeat 60s bubblegum song, but not creative at all. Really tired, overused melody. Don’t like it. Okay - “Medicine Head” is next. Hmm. Slow, woozy song about feeling slow and woozy. Interesting mood, even if the song doesn’t really stick with you when it’s done. Next one. “Broken Neck Blues.” Piano-happy, relaxed bouncy pop tune. Really nice light echo on the vocals. I like this one a lot. Kinda reminds me of - I don’t know what. Something really good though! These guys pull out some fantastic chords. Next one - “Aluminum Foil.” Not the greatest song ever written. Appears to be a reggae thing. SO WHY THE HELL CAN’T I GET IT OUT OF MY HEAD???? Better move on to the final track - “Pound Away.” A song about the band members. Double-tracked vocals - sounds good! Really upbeat, goodtime song. Probably fun when drunk. Everyone gets a solo. Basic melody is kinda uneventful, but great energy! So what’s that - 7 great songs, 3 decent ones and 4 that I actively hate. Sounds like a high 6 to me!

See, that’s the kind of writing that’s going to get me a job in every important men’s magazine that is available on the marketplace today. In short, The Steve Knowlton Solo Project Band have great piano/keyboards almost all the time, loose vocals that you really have to get used to (but you will!) and, a good deal of the time, creative and pretty melodies that will make you tap your spine and snap your leg. Kudos, Steve Knowlton, for you are truly the heart and soul of this supposed four-piece!

Even though it was Jason Justian that played those awesome keyboards and not you, you talentless whore.

Oh! One other thing - hilarious band pics on the inner sleeve feature three of the members in their kitchens maturely preparing suburban adult meals and the fourth member making a ridiculously excited, juvenile face while holding a pizza box over his head. HA!

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Spackle And Grout EP - Crabapple Tapes 2000.
Rating = 7

This one gets a higher grade because it’s so short, there’s no ROOM for crappy songs! 21 minutes - same cool bayou-style variety of jazzy/swingin/rock/pop that you heard on the last one - with just as many neat chord sequences. But with some really gross lyrics. The title track, for example, features lines like “Laying pipe, running hose, trimming up your bush” and “I can drill your drainpipe with a larger bore.” And I just find housework repulsive. Absolutely disgusting. Oof. Then there’s an entire song about getting the scabies. THE SCABIES!!!! WHAT THE HELL IS THIS, A MARK PRINDLE ALBUM??? Another interesting thing to note: The last album featured nothing but Knowlton compositions, this one features songs co-written by the other members and yet - there’s no decline in songwriting quality! Plus, Steve’s voice is a little stronger on this one, missing much fewer notes and putting forth a really nice sense of confidence. Not every single song is an instant classic (did they not notice that track 7 features the exact same ascending chord progression as track 6? But boringer?), but a lot of them are, and that’s a nice thing to hear from an unknown band.

So I say send Steve a note and see if you can get cheap or free copies of these. Again, it takes time to get used to the singer’s voice, but it takes NO time to get used to the excellent melodies that you will find strewn throughout these two CDs. BAMM!

Reader Comments (Steven Knowlton)
Thanks for the review! You sure work faster than those clowns Wilson and Alroy.

Glad you liked the guitar chords. Since I can't play leads (it sounds like you didn't miss them) I try to compensate with things like A-flat suspended 4. Every guitarist should get a capo.

I'll pass on your compliments to Jason.

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