Album Review: Knuckle – Life Is Hard When You’re Soft Inside

From the opening riffs of the Spilt Milk, the first track on Huddersfield three piece Knuckles debut album, you’re transported away. Not far, but maybe to a hostelry in the trio’s home town. The sort of place with worn carpets, and woodbines and dominoes, and pints of bitter. A place that’s full of atmosphere and characters, and laughter and stories. It’s a world of raucous guitars, driving drums and a vibe that starts with The Stooges and passes through a multitude of garages, clubs, and art schools on the way to the now.

Knuckle is, or rather are Ben Wallbanks, Rob Crisp and Jonny Firth. A postman, a community musician and, well, Jonny Firth. They’ve served their apprenticeship well, playing hundred of shows with the likes of Idles, The Wave Pictures and Barrence Whitfield & The Savages, and through this the band have learned their craft, and with ‘Life is hard when you’re soft inside’, they’re ready to unleash it.

It might have been forged in its garage rock image, but the band aren’t afraid to move the goalposts. Against the garage punk of the opener, with its swathes of noise and a chorus to kill for – Cash and carry rocks passes through Arctic Monkeys and Ian Dury as is wends its merry Punk/Funk way, while rewind the feeling has this Stranglers meets indie rock feel, and the title track has this sort of theatrical mariachi thing going on. As the band said in an interview with us recently “we’ve always loved the White Album, and how each song takes you down a different path and keeps you on your toes. We stayed true to the songs that were coming out of us, instead of trying to stick to a formula, and let the album take on it’s own persona”.

The band certainly know how to lay their earthy, gritty take on rock and roll down, and go in big with both melody and riffs (just listen to the Chilli Peppers-esque Spinning in the Guitar for instance, but it’s Firth’s words that seperate the wheat from the chaff as he covers a range of subjects – ‘Rewind The Feeling’ recalls a conversation had with a friend about growing up openly gay in the 80’s in Wakefield and the stigma attached to drug addiction, ‘Spilt Milk’ is a seething anti-Brexit anthem while ‘Life Is Hard When You’re Soft Inside’ explores growing up in a Northern mining town diagnosed with bi-polar, with insight, intelligence and humour.

So while Life is hard when you’re soft inside might not cover new ground, or create new genres, it is a document of a band woven into their surroundings – gritty, proud, funny, down to earth and trustworthy (I know, I used to live there), and that’s what gives it, and them, it’s character. So, pull us a pint and deal me in for doms next round. I’m sold.

Knuckle’s new album will be available through Wakefield’s Philophobia records on the 17th of May on streaming services and 12” vinyl.

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