Monday, 24 August 2015

Live Review and Album Review: Knees Please (Where's Ma Money Release Party) + The Great Machine @ Levontin 7, Tel Aviv [5th August 2015]

  The first time I ever saw either of these two bands was, funnily enough, also at a show they played together. It was some special event at a skate park in Tel Aviv. I had never seen or really even heard of these two bands before but I went along and even filmed part of both their sets. From thereon in, I've been quite a dedicated follower of both bands. Tonight, the two band's reunite to celebrate the Knee Please's debut album, Where's Ma Money.

The Great Machine

    These stoners don't get enough recognition. The Great Machine are a band formed by two brothers, Aviran (bass/vocals) and Omer (guitar/vocals), who, at different points over the last few years, have also owned a venue and a rehearsal space. Many tend to class their music as "stoner", whereas others may say "psychedelic". In a way, their repertoire has consisted of a bit of both.
 Instead of the stage, the band are placed in a sort of triangle pattern on the dance floor. Although this makes dancing a little bit more difficult for onlookers, this is the way this kind of band should be playing. It makes it easier to focus on what everyone in the band is doing.  
   Previously, they have been known to perform with female vocalist, Noga Shalev, whose enticing vocals made their sound go a little trippy at times. She seems to no longer be part of the band, resulting in the brothers and drummer Michael playing a heavier, more stoner and sludge influenced set. There's the odd song that I recognise from other shows, but the rest are either album tracks that I don't know or brand new songs. Either way, there is a fair bit of head banging as the trio rock out. 
   Most of the time, Aviran's mic seems far too quiet and he is really only audible in parts of the song where he sings/talks over silence. Personally, it doesn't make that much of a difference as they could easily work just as well as a totally instrumental band. Vocals aside, the sound is fairly good and their playing over all is highly energetic and on point. I was entertained tonight. However, there was a point where I was so sure they were on a new song but they ended up doing the same bit from a good 3 minutes earlier. So this is either quite a progressive song or they added it in to confuse us.  

Knees Please

  The first time I saw this band play the skate park, they were a duo called Tape&Rape, a name which actually stuck until some months back, even after becoming a three-piece. Knees Please are essentially still the same band as back then, Alex (guitar/vocals) and David (drums), with a good amount of the same songs only with slight changes here and there. Bassist, Ben (Zaga Zaga), actually plays his last show with the band tonight and will be replaced by another Ben. 

   The band prepare themselves in the same three pointed set-up as The Great Machine as more people start flooding in. After a few welcomes and stoned banter from Alex, the band kick off their set with album opener, Shit Back. This is a good example of the band's early grunge influences a la Melvins and Bleach era Nirvana; being all quiet one moment and then simply exploding into some very low and heavy riffs. Despite it's title, it lyrically comes off as one of the most serious and relatable songs they have.
   The band pretty much continues playing the whole of recently released debut, Where's Ma Money, in full, including other weirdly titled songs like I Came Blood and Sweaty Chicken in Ma Pants. Both songs are from the band's early days and also use that heavy grunge sound. I Came Blood has always been one of those songs that has lyrically made me go, "What on earth is this about?", as Alex seems to be describing a visit to the doctors because of bleeding genitalia. However, the lyrical content is so memorable that it get's people mouthing along. Sweaty Chicken.. still has Alex's mouth trumpet solo, which now works even better over their thicker and fuller sound. I would have loved to have seen someone actually turn up tonight with an actual trumpet...
   Other tracks from the album and the set that come from the Tape&Rape days include Ceiling, Mine and album closer Vacation. Ceiling is probably one of the band's most famous and popular songs, as drummer David pleases people everywhere by giving us "more cowbell" in both the intro. The song is pretty much how it used to be only with some lyrics changed. The song's groove has everyone in the place moving, whether it is just nodding their heads or fully dancing their socks off. Mine, originally "King Of The Garbage", has also had a bit of facelift, with some edited lyrics and added parts. The chorus still has that epic "I'm king of the wooorrld.." line, which gives the song the potential of being quite a hit if they ever get the right publicity. 

   Songs like Motherboard, Sleepy Time and I Lie are what I consider the highlights of the album and their set. New bassist, Ben (Belial), joins the band for Motherboard, a song I had never heard before listening to the album, despite apparently being an old one. Like with Ceiling, it has the most ridiculously cool groove that I had to bust some sort of move. After grooving in the intro, the band then plays a lot of heavy synchronised "stabs", which on first listen sounded sort of lazy and unimaginative but when played live, it makes you want to break stuff. Sleepy Time is a tune I recognise from previous shows, because I always mistook the intro for that of Teenage Kicks, only played in a slightly different rhythm. The song throughout has a bit of a swing to it, which is refreshing compared to the rest. I Lie is almost the band's quintessential grunge track, based on a steady rock beat but freaking out with an explosive chorus. It has an QOTSA feel to it; you can imagine yourself driving 100mph down a motorway in an open top car to this.
   In their set, the band also plays some brand new songs not on the record, such as Muddy, Barry The Lizard, The Sun and Go In Piss. Barry The Lizard especially stands out, with Alex's crazy vocals jumping along with the bouncy rhythm. There seems to be more of a sludge feel in the newer ones which makes the wait for the next album more exciting.

   After about an hour of rocking out, the band finish, all sweaty and tuckered, as the crowd beg for more. Ben bows out gracefully but the original 2 members take us back to their Tape&Rape days with We Said and its infectious "La la la-la" chorus. This was a nice way to end a set, showing how far they've come and that what they were is still a big part of who they are.
I've got a lot of love for Knees Please, especially as a live band. Although the album still has some great heavy stuff to rock out to, there are songs that sound a little bit too similar. For example, Sleepy Time and Mine have the same starting chords, making the latter sound like an extension of the former, especially on record. This could have been done to create some sort of underlining theme, but on first listen sounds sort of lazy. The quiet-loud-quiet method also seems a little bit overdone here, despite it's proven effectiveness for decades. If you like bands like Melvins, The Jesus Lizard and even Helmet, check out these guys some time.

Live: 4/5
Where's Ma Money?: 3/5

All photos courtesy of Eddie Botstein

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