Reason #500 Why The ’80’s Didn’t Suck: Knife

knifeAll Music Bio: For most intents and purposes, Aztec Camera is Roddy Frame, a Scottish guitarist/vocalist/songwriter. Several other musicians have passed through the band over the years — including founding members Campbell Owens (bass) and Dave Mulholland (drums) — but the one constant has beenFrame. Throughout his career, he has created a sophisticated, lush, and nearly jazzy acoustic-oriented guitar pop, relying on gentle melodies and clever wordplay inspired by Elvis Costello.

Aztec Camera released their debut album, High Land, Hard Rain, in 1983. Before its release, Owens and Mulholland ad left the group, leaving Frame to assemble the record himself. Upon its release, the album won significant amounts of critical praise for its well-crafted, multi-layered pop. After releasing a stop-gap EP, Oblivious, the group’s second full-length record, Knife, appeared in 1984. Produced by Mark Knopfler, the album was more polished and immediate than the debut, featuring horn arrangements and a slight R&B influence.

Uncle E’s album pick: “Knife”, from 1984.

Allmusic, and everyone else for that matter, believes this album to be inferior to the debut (‘83’s High Land, Hard Rain), and consider it the “one-legged stepchild” of Frame’s discography. Mark Knopfler produced and in doing so added a sheen of…ahem!… professionalism to the songs which, in my opinion, were superior to anything this band has put out before or since, dated synths be damned. Songs like Just Like The USA, Backwards and Forwards, The Birth Of The True in addition to the monumental title track and Still On Fire, are sincere, affecting and extremely well executed. For bonus points I must add that they are also catchy as hell. A couple of the songs have that putrid 80’s “sheen” attached to them, but overall it’s consistently enjoyable and rewards repeat listening. Knife remains a damn good reason why the 1980’s didn’t suck nearly as bad as most of us remember. Frame’s acoustic version of the Van Halen synth-classic “Jump” is by far the definitive version and is available on the recent, and wonderful, reissue of Knife.

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