A record well deserving of more attention than it’s probably going to get.
It seems like the pop style of punk is having a rough time lately. There’s few bands that bring the same combination of accessible melody and anthemic passion to the genre that began steeped in counter-culture and anarchy. Seems almost strange to call it punk given the amount of polish that goes into records by the likes of Green Day, Banner Pilot and certainly the 2017 release by Goldfinger, The Knife.
A record nine years in the making, John Feldmann has become more of a producer than punk rocker but the results are very easy on the ear. While his voice, seemingly harmonized with itself, is unmistakably Goldfinger there’s a lot going on here that dials this controls on this album into groundbreaking territory. Multiple drummers make appearances, including Blink-182’s Travis Barker who doubles the beats per minute just because he can. While the song structures borrow from dub, ska, pop and punk rock, Barker seems to always hit a crazy stride which makes the percussion busier than it’s been on previous releases. Mark Hoppus also stops by to drop some vocals because apparently Blink-182 wasn’t busy with their own latest release.
He’s essentially turned Goldfinger into a supergroup project with himself as the kingpin tieing it all together. When you endeavour to do something like that it becomes essential to make sure that the songwriting isn’t just phoned in. With the possible exception of “Orthodontist Girl,” this album boasts some fun, lighthearted pop songs which range from horn-rich ska tracks like “Get What I Need” to the impossibly catchy “Liftoff.” The former has all the bombast of a full brass band while the hook drops into an immensely satisfying melody. The fake patois on the latter track is regrettable, but they handle it gently while means it comes off more like a subtle homage to reggae and ska rather than a poor taste attempt to mimic it.
It’s easy to imagine someone performing these tracks live and succumbing to a certain amount of performance gimmicks. On “Milla,” the band brings a level of contrived “fun” to the delivery which feels like it doesn’t work at first but when it suddenly relaxes into an acoustic ballad about a “little baby girl” to fade out, it’s easily overlooked.
Where the album is strongest is “Put the Knife Away,” where Feldmann’s songwriting skill meets the furious pace of the percussion and NOFX-level wild guitar buzz. Everything falls into place here from songwriting to pacing and structure. It sounds like punk rock. It sounds like good punk rock.
It seems a little trite to call this Goldfingers best band in years considering they haven’t made one since 2008 but even compared to their earlier material, and other modern punk records, this is easily one of the year’s best. The earworm “Don’t Let Me Go” says it all when Feldmann sings, “Listen up /this ain’t a come-back song/ ‘cuz I’ve been here all along” pretty much says it all. Feldmann’s been busy honing every bit of his craft from production to songwriting and apparently some serious networking at parties. He’s standing in really good company and delivering a fast and loud release which sparkles with a high-energy crackle. It will unfortunately falter due to the mainstream’s general unfamiliarity with anything other than their most popular cover songs but on The Knife, Goldfinger have written a record well deserving of more attention than it’s probably going to get.