Sunday, 11 February 2018
Get The Knack - The Knack
On the one hand, Get The Knack is a wonderfully hooky power-pop gem, redolent of Cheap Trick, the Raspberries and the first Big Star album. Gorgeous melodies and swooning harmonies wrap around jangly guitar and muscular drumming to superb effect. It's a joy from front to back.
However, it's also incredibly sexist and sleazy. Even the most generous of devil's advocates would struggle to justify the fetishisation of pubescent girls that runs through Get The Knack. I suppose The Knack should be congratulated for their singular ability to take the concept of the male gaze and rendering it in the form of a catchy rock album. It's an uncomfortable listen, and that's coming from someone who owns an album by an artist who calls themselves Mr Yellow Discipline (NSFW, quite obviously).
The apex, or perhaps nadir, of this objectification comes on a jaunty little number titled '(She's So) Selfish.' It's hard to sum up quite how nasty the track is in terms of both a projected fantasy and attitudes towards women, but the lyrics can give you an idea. I've long held an unease at what seems to be a specifically 1970s strain of misogyny in rock music (though not limited to that decade, or the genre for that matter - 1957's 'Boom Boom, Out Go The Lights' by Little Walter is particularly grim) but I can acknowledge that lust is a legitimate and very human feeling, and one which informs a considerable amount of music, art and literature.
My issues here are twofold; one, that this sweaty, glandular lust is so unreflectingly unrelenting. Not only does it never stop, but it never stops to ponder the other side of the coin or to gaze into the mirror. It's wonderfully crafted power-pop, but three-minute cherry bombs are rarely executed with the degree of genius necessary to provide nuance. As I said, this wouldn't be so bad if it weren't for the fact that a good three-quarters of Get The Knack wasn't knuckle-dragging objectification. Whilst the sublime 'Oh Tara' shimmers with a rare gentleness, 'Good Girls Don't', 'Frustrated' and 'That's What The Little Girls Do', er, don't.
The other issue is that, even if one attempts to be aware of the anachronism of grafting modern attitudes towards gender relations onto albums from 1979, Get The Knack still fails the sniff test. It is worth bearing in mind that this souffle of sweaty-palmed teenage frottage was written and performed by a band of men all in their mid- or late-twenties. I didn't let Faster Pussycat off the hook for 'Smash Alley', and though I made a glib reference to Lolita it's worth mentioning that Nabokov's work was a sophisticated serio-comic masterpiece in the 'unreliable narrator' vein of writing. For all its merits, and they are legion (in case this review seems overly damning), Get The Knack never aims for anything beyond a pose of arrested development.
Of course, I may well have just tied myself in knots through my inability to engage with Get The Knack through anything other than a contemporary prism of what could be considered 'problematic'. However, I have certainly enjoyed - and continue to enjoy - books, television and film that certainly wouldn't fit anyone's definition of 'woke'. Furthermore, I do so unapologetically. With that in mind, could it be that Get The Knack is, was, and will continue to be merely a squalid little paean to misogyny, albeit one that from a formal point of view sounds absolutely delicious?
What a shame. There's so much good music on Get The Knack that it's entirely deserving of its platinum status on that criterion alone. And viewed in isolation, 'My Sharona' is dangerously close to being the perfect rock song. It's an angsty, propulsive earworm that features one of the catchiest guitar solos committed to magnetic tape. I love it and it still makes me happy, albeit this is tempered somewhat by the knowledge that Quentin Tarantino wanted to use it for the 'gimp' scene in Pulp Fiction. But you know what? Thank goodness, I say, that my aesthetic tastes align with a great cinematic auteur like Tarantino, and not with some sordid, woman-hating trash-purveyor, eh?