By Brian Tucker
Poorly Knit recorded Getting Help over the course of a year and sounds like it. That’s not intended as a slight. The material is broad in tonalities and personality – think dark indie pop with anything but rounded edges. The smart, refined musicianship comes paired with being brutally honesty, as it can be lyrically, making for great music culled from earned experience. It appears that year was worth it.
This is an album with jagged teeth, held hard by its narrators or its outlier, often sounding like a messenger delivering bad news as gift in hand. It also sounds like songs pulled from a handful of albums to compile an anthology. The band – Zach Muni (guitars), Jesse Mock (guitars, vocals), Chris Johnson (percussion) and Jacob Boatman (bass) share a short life (with some origins in the band Hospital Dancing) and have crafted songs with lyrics pulling no punches. Musically it ebbs and flows, whether it’s thick punker “I Was a Blanket” opening the album to the lost-at-sea feeling of closer “Fishhouse Rapture Blues.”
Getting Help feels more like an album devoured in the fall or winter, not the ebullient spring season. It echoes the weight and isolation of winter, making for a distant cousin to Mad Season’s single album output Above. They’ve elegantly crafted catchy and moody songs here, like the gem “Sleep Together” about mass emotional confusion surrounding relationships, infidelity and interchanging partners. The coarse and punchy song has lyrics like “Evil deeds we feel no guilt/Smiling face, sheets get filled” and the ASG worthy chorus of “All my friends sleep together/Regardless of whether or not/They’re fucking someone’s life up/You’re fucking up my-”
Relationships are a constant theme. It’s at the heart of brilliant (and brief) songs like “Takes One” whose vocals move deftly from brisk spoken word to an explosive, soaring chorus and the cool and ominous “New Husband.” The songs do a lot in two minutes. Lyrically the album echoes hip sonic qualities of early R.E.M. and Nirvana, popping bass sounds and prickly guitar. Mock’s singing is whispered, moving from secretive to haunting, perfect for a song about a wandering woman who wastes years of people’s lives.
If lyrics are a strong suit, so are the album’s sonic qualities. Where many bands make great records that sound the same throughout, Poorly Knit has made a great album all over the place. And it works. They compose a catchy rocker like “Sleep Together” then go for thunder and chaos on “New Wife,” merging choking bass lines with guitars that rage like metallic ambiance. Ditto the predatory feel of “Sleep Alone” and the coolness of “Thrive.”
Getting Help is a solid example of poetry and storytelling colliding with music where great lyric writing and musicianship, along with vocals, come together wonderfully on a rock record. Life can deal harsh blows; sometimes all that’s left is great art as a result. Poorly Knit has created one of the best albums I’ve heard this year. Hopefully they don’t take another year to make one. If this is all we ever hear from them, it’s got plenty of mileage