Knowso Pulsating Gore LP

This may not be for everyone, but KNOWSO’s blend of jerky post-punk rhythms with spoken lyrics is unique and instantly interesting. It’s almost like the words and music are separate entities: the angular guitars pounding away to the propulsive drums, while the deadpan vocals deliver deranged free-association poetry from endless observation that become near-chants with repetition. If you are willing to receive the Pulsating Gore, it rules—short blasts describing snapshots of life in all its glory, equal parts trivial and grotesque. Singer/guitarist Nathan Ward’s job as a trucker is evident in the journalistic depictions of life in transit; interesting birds, accidents, trucks jackknifing, heavy loads—it’s all here because it all plays a part. “Last of the Punks” documents the decaying landscape with lines like “There’s satisfaction / If you want it” and “America / Land of the Free, Mark of the Beast / Those aren’t track marks / That’s the Mark of the Beast.” It’s a compelling listen, and as disconcerting as it is on first listen, it becomes more and more relatable on repeat. Highly recommended.

Knowso Rare Auld Trip / Psychological Garden LP

KNOWSO is a unique meld of off-kilter post-punk, new wave, and a dash of CAPTAIN BEEFHEART weirdness. Much like the first time I heard BEEFHEART’s Trout Mask Replica, I came away a little confused by my first listen to this record. It’s hard to pin down genre-wise, quirky as hell, and totally unlike most of what you hear in today’s punk scene. That being said, a few more listens to the record were enough for me to realize what a goddamn masterpiece this record is. Truly one of the most creative, unique, genre-bending releases of the year. The band has stumbled upon a punchier, noisier take on DEVO that still feels forward-thinking in the 21st century. It’s witty and sarcastic, but also profound, striking a nice balance lyrically. This is a highlight release of the year for me.

Knowso Specialtronics Green Vision LP

Solid stuff from Cleveland punkers with some obvious DEVO in their DNA but also hinting at what it would sound like if NOMEANSNO were fronted by Steve Albini. They’re locked into a sound that is angular, makes a clear separation between guitar and bass, and keeps steady with deadpan double-tracked vocals evoking enough dread and despair that there’s no need for hooks. “Digital God” is the standout commentary on toxic contemporary life with lines like “I’m sending out letter bombs / It’s my first time.” At times they deserve the Johnny Ramone prize for sustained downpicking, other times the songs break down into more noodly-doodley rhythms but never approaching prog in their excess. Overall consistent, direct, and not particularly full of surprises once it gets going, but in all its pissed-off tension, totally works.

Knowso Like a Buzz / Physical Freak 7″

The ’90s revival continues. KNOWSO perform robotic, kinetic nerd punk: descendants of DEVO, but with a sound that’s part NOMEANSNO, part SERVOTRON. The two short songs here form a perfectly digestible snippet of pocket-protector punk.