Knightingale — DEMONS

“Demons are surrounding me lately . . .feeling bloody broke . . . woohoo!”

Knightingale lashes out with the kind of post-adolescent energy that only comes from working an entry-level position at a nameless, faceless company you hate, wondering if the cutie at the record store would be interested in knowing your name and not having enough money to take them out and also pay the rent. Demons whisks by, all breakneck kick-snare grooves, falsetto ooohs and fuzzy guitars. If it came 50 years earlier, Lenny Kaye himself would have scooped it up.

Though this earworm-y banger is tough to deny, two things will turn off discerning listeners. First off, the hyper-compressed production smushes the dynamics of their crisp songwriting and melodic punch but -more importantly- the universalism of the words that they choose to sing absolutely flattens out any kind of unique lyrical perspective that they have to offer, which they must possess, especially knowing which part of the world they’re working in.

We can tell that they love classic American rock’n’roll (within the less-than-two-minutes of this track, they quote Nirvana’s Sappy during the bridge section) Why this Singapore-based group feels so compelled to kick up such a furiously melodic fuss remains unclear. Maybe they can’t abide being broke and in their twenties. Maybe they’re struggling to understand the lack of economic mobility for millennials and gen-z as they work their way further into the twenty-first century. In their website, their mission statement claims that they want to document the struggles of youth that they and those around them are going through but all that their best songs talk about is gurls, gurls, gurls. A worthy topic, sure, but not much of a reason to listen further when this vein has been so heavily-mined already.

This is unfortunate because any listener with a working understanding of western pop music history can hear that they’ve internalized much of the best that Western punk and garage rock has to offer on the best tracks off of God Damn Youth: the stop-start rhythms, the brill-building melodicism and motown harmonies (Check out the T-Rex-esque stomp of Harbinger or the stunner of a falsetto-chorus on Sayonara)

They speak the language of western garage-rock fluently, as competently if not better than a number of western garage-rock groups working today, but the fact that they don’t seem to be particularly inclined to say anything truly reflective of their experience growing up within the odd dichotomy of Singapore’s pristine urbanity and rigidly strict confines means that this group will be destined to sound like a cover band.

They’d do well to remember that garage-oriented musicians not based in California, New York or London–whether it’s Los Saicos, Shin Joong Hyun or the more-contemporary King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard–earned the adoration of fans world-wide by leaning into the idiosyncrasies that made them unique, not running from them.

However, all we can know for sure is that this band is in love with rock’n’roll and they’ll be out all night. Call it Jonathan Richman Syndrome.

RIYL: The Rattlers — On The Beach, The Buzzcocks — Ever Fallen In Love, Lookout-era Green Day, unrequited love, working a shitty job