ARTIST The Knife
ALBUM Shaking The Habitual
LABEL Mute Records
RELEASE DATE 9.4.2013
8.9 | 10
When The Knife announced earlier this year they were indeed still a living, breathing thing, courtesy of the enthralling first single “Full of Fire,” it was apparent the world was about to experience a whole new monster. All nine minutes and 17 seconds of it packed so much emotional urgency you’d break a sweat by minute seven. That and the album’s first track, “A Tooth For an Eye,” preceded the album release, with both being examples of how the band has evolved since their last studio album some seven years ago. This is not an album with any immediate rewards. “End Extreme Wealth” reads The Knife website, in a series of comic-strip inspired social manifestos. In a way, that message serves as the hallowed ground upon which this album was created, as there are no moments of instant gratification to be found, no 1% hogging the spotlight. Everything here is the 99%; desperate, driven, frustrated, bleak. “When you’re full of fire, what’s the object of your desire,” Karin Dreijer sings on the thrilling first single. There are no answers to be found in the music here, putting the listener in full command of the direction this album takes them in.
“A Cherry On Top” shares the same ambient drone of “Old Dreams Waiting To Be Realized,” before a vast array of plucked strings comes out of the woodwork sounding like the most satanic church bells, but the latter’s end-of-song lyrical exercise is one of the most poignant on the record. “Wrap Your Arms Around Me” expounds upon the gothic tendencies seen on “Fire,” while the aforementioned “Dreams” rolls on for 19 minutes, without any discernible melody, but does provide a much needed respite after the earth-shattering intensity of the first 30 minutes of music. After that extended interlude the duo returns with the excellent “Raging Lung,” which will certainly appease those fans looking for something with a bigger hook. “Fracking Fluid Injection” skirts around with a multitude of drum loops before “Ready To Lose” closes out the album by hitting on the overall theme of the album one more time.
And that brings me to “Without You My LIfe Would Be Boring,” which, with the mercy of time, might just go down as their best song. The tribal influences of “Eye” are married to the sonic intensity of “Fire,” but with a chorus that recalls the band at their most pop. It’s from this song that the album gets its name, with Dreijer hitting her highest register on the album. You wonder from listening to the song if the band wouldn’t mind a “boring” life. In that light, the song takes on an accusatory tone. Shaking The Habitual, despite it’s length, is an album that must be heard all the way through for it to resonate. It’s no doubt an exercise in patience, but in time this album will only get better. Even “Dreams,” which has been derided by some for its 19 minute run time, begins to take on a life of its own the more time it has to stick with the listener. Albums like this shouldn’t be made in the 21st century. The habits we’ve fostered have made us seek out those things with the most immediate rewards; with Habitual The Knife haven’t just called into question the direction of this modern society, they have made it seem like an impossible way of life. If we are still capable of embracing something so bold, so thought-provoking, so visceral, then perhaps we aren’t too far gone. Rather, like an Etch-a-Sketch, a good shaking is all we need to get back on our feet and start from scratch.