I discovered Silk Knives in my weekly hunt for a band name to tear apart, but when I noticed that they had a CD release scheduled I thought, "Well, let's take this doggy for a walk and see if it will piss on Old Lady Higglebottom's lawn." A short download later, I was treated to a six-song self-titled EP that is pretty damn sweet.
Silk Knives formed, as so many good bands do, from the remains of a previous band's breakup. Singer Colby Powers and drummer Justin Klein picked themselves up from the remains of an act called The Southern Kill, and recruited an occasional collaborator, Johnny Herrs, on guitar and Pinto Pantaleano on bass to create their latest vision of screaming guitars and a solid, almost blues rhythm section.
The result is something that is very hard to pin down. I could name bands all day long and still never quite get it. Herrs is a big part of the experience. Every song features a solo by him, and he knows how to tickle a string is way that incorporates just enough playful energy from the days of hair metal without fading into feeling dated.
"We want guitar solos in every song if possible," says Powers via email. "Even if it's a short one. Modern music lacks these qualities that we hold dear more than likely because they play music for the masses so they in turn write and play music that they believe others will like and enjoy."
There's a rough quality to the recording and the songs themselves that bring a grand '70s spectacle to the album. The true standout on the record is a claustrophobic, sweaty tune written by Klein called "Leg Room." More overtly blues than most of the EP's other tracks, it tells of a junkie being sick in the back of a police cruiser with his friends caught in the middle of his criminal activities to feed his addiction.
It's a short track, just two minutes long, but every second of it feels like a withdrawal system. Powers' voice rises over the guitar screeches to scream a rage at the war on drugs.
"I did make sure to include the abuse of power by police and officials that the people elect and also pay their salaries yet they treat any offender of the 'law' like an animal and not so much a person," said Powers. "I've had a few run-ins with the law and never had an officer treat me with the respect that they so strongly demand of you. Don't get me started."
Silk Knives has some real potential, and their first EP shows off what could be a very distinctive sound. They offer a nebulous swirl where you can catch things as far apart as Zeppelin or Clouds are Ghosts. It's a combination of new and old that feels fresh and tested.
Herrs absolutely destroys every second he strums, and in songs like "Fire Lane" or "All in Your Head," but it's Powers and his strange, almost sexless tones that lend the cosmic vibe. You're never really sure if it's a girl or a boy singing, especially in something like "Pysche" where he could either be Vince Neil or Lydia Lunch. The ambiguity lends it the same clout as Cory Sinclair in The Manichean, but on a more street, throbbing level. You get dirty listening to this stuff. Good dirty, and they're only likely to get better.
Silk Knives plays Saturday, June 22 at Fitzgerald's with the John Lefler Band, Days Drive, Tom Lynch, and King Finn.