Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Knapsack ‎– Day Three Of My New Life (1997)

Davis, CA, pop-punk band Knapsack's second album has an excellent title and music to match. Sure, this kind of earnest, emotional rock had been done a million times - particularly by Samiam, whose Sergie Loobkoff would actually join Knapsack before their next record - but the songs and style of Day Three are ultimately quite timeless. The themes - romance and the loss thereof - are also fairly typical, but when handled by singer/songwriter Blair Shean's gritty voice and witty pen, they transcend.
Josh Modell

If I could rate Knapsack as a band rather than their individual albums they would surely be in my top tier. Each one of their full-lengths is an album you find yourself liking. Yeah, that's it, just liking, at first. Well, this is me, at least. Until one sunny afternoon or some bullshit like that, you realize you've played This Conversation Is Ending Right Now to death, an infinite amount of times and it feels even fucking fresher, more memorable and distinct than when you first laid ears on it a year ago. Blair Shehan's gritty vocals are so utterly grimy and imperfect, but you don't go long without singing along to "Decorate the Spine" or something, it just doesn't happen. This is Knapsack as a band though, we haven't even gotten as far asDay Three of My New Life yet, thanks to my fittingly lackadaisical reviewing. 

First though, it'd be helpful to gain a better grasp on the band. Remember the days of early 90's emocore... of Rites of Spring, Embrace, Other Obvious Namedrop, those bands? Me neither, but we wish we did, don't we? Anyway, Knapsack is a sad representative of the bastard spawn of that era. One of the many, I might add. Before pussy shit like American Football and after pussy shit like The Get Up Kids became the norm for the genre, Knapsack was balancing on the thin line, maintaining the invigorating energy of emo while incorporating the friendlier, indie aesthetic of more digestible influences. They weren't alone by a long shot-- Texas Is The Reason, Mineral, Braid, Christie Front Drive, and a million other bands were doing more or less the exact same thing next door. Thing was, Knapsack basically perfected it. They might not be sharing the limelight with aforementioned bands, but Knapsack's music was a lot more fun than said bands, anyway: louder than Texas Is The Reason, catchier than Mineral, more fun than Braid. Chugging guitars, equally emotional and nonsensical song names and lyrics, and a vocalist you weren't sure whether to bow down to or just shake your head in pity at (either way, it's memorable), Knapsack defined the middle ground stuck between catharsis and catchiness. They were the late 90's bastard of earlier emo bands.

And yet, Day Three of My New Life is a disappointment in ways. It's like Knapsack only had a set amount of dynamism for their record, and chose to spend it all on the first four songs only instead of divvying it up. Fuck, I don't blame them. If the dull, monotony of "Henry Hammers Harder" and "Boxing Gloves" is the sacrifice for the orgasmic perfection of "Thursday Side of the Street," you've got yourself a deal, Shehan and company. The liveliness of each throat-groggling, bright, anthem that graces the beginning of Day Three of My New Life is enough is enough to warrant as many duds as they'd like further on. Well, not really, but it's difficult not to think so at times. Forgive Knapsack for their flaws on their second full-length... for making one of the most unbalanced records ever, for losing their early, abundant energy, and for inevitably causing you to lose your voice the day before your philosophy presentation (uncontrollably singing along to "Thursday Side Of The Street" and scorching your throat, of course). Cut ‘em a break. They haven't quite reached their consistent potential of This Conversation, but they're showcasing some of their best here. Or, you could just listen to the first four songs off of Day Three of My New Life, remember that Knapsack are a genre-defining little group from California, and scream your lungs out to 
"He says, thanks for coming home,
If not for the bar i'd spend my life aloooone,"
Not sure why, I just love that line. Most of them, for that matter.

Knapsack is a college band in every sense of the word. The type of band that evokes the sound, smell and feel of those tiny, rocking live music clubs with a stage that's just barely off the ground. The type of band that easily helps you forget your obligations and encourages you to just drink some beer and hang with your buds while you soak up their no frills rock. The type of band that a college radio station without commercial intentions would play in a set with Generation X, The Godfathers, Leaving Trains and early Replacements.

Formed at University of California at Davis in 1993, Knapsack consists of vocalist/guitarist Blair Shehan, drummer Colby Mancasola and bassist Rod Meyer. An unpolished chip off the same rock as early Goo Goo Dolls, Knapsack's sound is simple but gets the job done. Shehan sounds like a Dave Pirner (Soul Asylum)/David Lowery (Cracker) hybrid with raspy touches of Richard Butler (Psychedelic Furs) as he sings his way into a sort of yell-shout that convinces you he's putting everything he has into the delivery.

Day Three of My New Life, the band's sophomore release, was produced by Drive Like Jehu's Mark Trombino. And Knapsack opens with "Thursday Side of the Street", a number propelled by Shehan's vocal surge, power chords, pulsating bass, pounding drums and crashing cymbals. Typical of the offerings here, its hook is the big crescendo at the chorus where Shehan belts his guts out. "Diamond Mine", "Heart Carved Tree" and "Sleeper Than We Thought" stand out here as the few tracks which forego the build-up but retain the energy and drive.

Knapsack's high fueled approach is short and to the point, with all ten tracks clocking in under five minutes. But like a good roller coaster or thrill ride, it will keep you coming back for more.
Joann D. Ball

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