An album a week #12: Smoke and Ribbons by The Small Knives
Back when the long-lamented independent record label Candle Records was still functioning, punting out great indy-pop by bands like Ruck Rover and the Lucksmiths, the work of The Small Knives found its way onto samplers and Candle’s 10th Anniversary DVD. Here I found The Small Knives, whose understated, tuneful guitar songs were beguiling if at times a little too understated.
Smoke and Ribbons is their second, and to my knowledge last, release. It and its predecessor, Rain on Tin do not differ greatly. They centre on the twin guitars of Phil Romeril and Leo Mullins, supported (on some songs) by a more full band sound.
The songs are tuneful, mostly. Some of them are, to be honest, rather too slow for my liking unless I am in a very relaxed, rather contemplative mood. More up-tempo numbers include ‘Hey!’, ‘Easter Everywhere’ (with distinctly religious overtones), ‘Turnaround’ and to an extent the nostalgic and evocative ‘Summer’; but these are hardly going to induce a rush of adrenaline to the head. They’re mid-tempo themselves, which is as fast as anything gets.
But many of the tunes are beautiful, the instrumentation varied but understated, the lyrics interesting and occasionally arresting. I find that I’m not often in the mood for these records, but when I am feeling like letting some songs wash over me on a quiet afternoon, then nothing else will do quite as well.
Also, the albums are available from Plastic Viking Helmet Records as physical albums and as downloads, and the downloads are pretty cheap compared to iTunes and similar (A$7.00 for the whole record, which is only about US$5.00 at the moment). PVH, run, I vaguely recall, by one the the guys from the Small Knives, is worth a look if you like guitar-y wordy-pop. They host releases from the likes of Rob Clarkson (who was in Ruck Rover for a while and whose Zone One and Shirts and Skins are both worth a listen), Richard Easton, and Anthony Atkinson; and The Guild League, the side-project band formed by Lucksmiths front man Tali White. These are ‘musts’ if you are a Luckys listener.