Knuckle Up! – Motivation From Misery (album)

Motivation From Misery coverFirst impressions aren’t always the best basis for judgement.

Take the artwork to the right there. It’s going for a pretty stylised thing, and I’m not too sure what that thing actually is. Why not just use a photo? Why does it look like it’s from an amateurishly-inked comic, or possibly one of those bad 90s hip-hop cover art collections that get posted up on the internet for lulz?

Take the band’s name, Knuckle Up! Kinda says it all, huh: get ready for your arse to be kicked, or to kick your arse, or something. Generously, you might say that’s pretty macho, bro. Less generously you might dismiss it as thuggish. Or you might just note that it’s not exactly an outlandish attitude for a band that loves to mosh. For every dude who will fall over himself to tell you that really throwing down in the pit is all about respect and personal space there’s another dude who acts like he’s tooling up to hurt somebody. And, you know, neither is wrong. Nature of the scene.

But yeah, sometimes first impressions are accurate, because I’ve got to admit that Knuckle Up! just plain and simple aren’t a band for me. Once you get past those early impressions – assuming that, as with me, they’re off-putting rather than appealing – the music isn’t half bad, but nor does it really do much for me. My days in the pit are pretty much done with now, and most of my anger doesn’t come out through shouting and slamming, and I never could hardcore dance for shit anyhow.

Still, if you like to indulge in the cathartic, adrenaline-fuelled thrills of the pit you may well find something to like here. Knuckle Up! keep things pretty straightforward and brutal, in the spirit of 90s NYHC (they’re from New Jersey, btw, so not sure if saying that is some kind of faux pas, but some things you just gotta accept you don’t know). Plus you get some guest appearances from folks like Scott Vogel, who’s a name you’ll recognise from Carry On and Terror, and Andrew Neufeld of Comeback Kid.

Towards the end of the album there’s even some material that piques my interest; ‘Never Looking Back’ throws out lyrics like “I’ve travelled for miles to get nowhere”, which is about as concise a summation of the ennui of relentlessly touring a niche scene as anyone could muster, and the song itself meshes some cool melodies with a driving rhythm and beat and multiple vocalists with a confidence and familiarity that’s enviable. It’s just a shame that so much more of the lyrical material is along the lines of ‘The Pain’ (“you crush my fucking soul”) or ‘Attitude Adjustment’ (“every word falling from your lips / endless lies, I’m so sick of the bullshit”); we’ve both heard it before. Ditto the fairly staid approach to the music; confident, self-assured, competent – it’s all of these things, but there’s not a shitload of variety here, with the pace and temperament pretty similar throughout.

And okay, sure, I give a lot of bands free passes for similar crimes of unoriginality, but free passes come when something resonates me, which Motivation From Misery¬†sadly¬†doesn’t.

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