The Normal Knees rock punk/grunge angst, Harbor keeps alternative/emo alive
The Normal Knees
Attic Static Sticker Star
Punk and grunge scream angst. Sometimes it whispers, muttering under its breath, whether in front of a microphone or not. Other times it sings it in earnest, and most of the time it complains about something. The Normal Knees, a Chattanooga-based power duo is no exception to the rule.
But where they are unique is in the complexity, confusion, and off-the-beat lyrical content that is sometimes hard to follow, but rarely difficult to enjoy. The collection Attic Static Sticker Star is a collaboration between The Normal Knees and the Nehemiah Foundation for Cultural Renewal.
The Normal Knees are self-described as a group “whose musical free-journaling exercises attempt to fuse experience and narration through the evocative immediacy of alternative grunge.” The lyrics are often sporadic, touching on subjects like being down and out, the absence of confidence, adolescence, youth, consequences and of course, the relationships between girls and boys.
In the album’s highlight, “Baseball Diamond,” the duo writes an ode to The White Stripes “We’re Gonna Be Friends.” It’s a song about youthful desire and the shadows of sin: “So she’ll lift up her shirt without making complaint, ‘cause that’s all you’re after in the end when you walk with me to the baseball diamond.”
Another stand out is the wittily titled “Pilot G8,” a song about an apology riddled with self-doubt and misplaced love. “Apology eight: everything’s feeling great / But everything’s wrong / Everything’s wrong / Apology nine: everything’s feeling fine / But everything’s wrong.” There’s a Dostoevsky-esque mystery in “J Violet,” a self-deprecating bummer in “Bad Luck Charm,” and really impressive guitar playing throughout the whole album.
For those looking for a wide-range of sad, aggressive, and contemplative punk, this is the album to check out.
With a list of influences that include Jimmy Eat World, As Cities Burn, and Manchester Orchestra, it’s no wonder that Chattanooga outfit Harbor is born and bred to keep the early-2000s era of alternative and emo music alive.
In their latest release, a shortened EP titled Lady Karma, Harbor hits on all the right notes from a fully produced sound, a tight set of musicianship, and enough problems for a twenty-something to sing about.
“Every once in a while, you see a band or hear a song or album that really sets you back for a second. It just hits you. That’s what we are trying to do with Harbor,” the band writes in their bio. Although they miss a step or two with Lady Karma, there’s no doubt that these songs mean something and reach their audience at a deep level.
In the opener “Twisted Thoughts,” we hear: “You’ve got the devil’s gaze upon every inch of you, and you can’t move.” It’s heavy stuff for an otherwise smooth and collected collection, but what singer Jefferson Douglas croons, he means.
The EP’s standout by far is the final track, “Falling.” On the surface, it’s a love song about someone slipping away, not being able to catch up or stay above water. The bass line is incredibly impressive, the groove is unlike anything else on the EP, and the group can write one hell of a love song.
There is loneliness in “Truthful Words,” a search for God in untested waters in the title-track and self-actualization in “When the Day Comes,” especially when they hit us with” “You can’t become more than you are.” An incredibly intriguing lyric sung from a group who is holding on to alternative nostalgia.