Although they have been kicking up dust on the UK scene for a little more than a decade now, building themselves a sturdy reputation in the process, Lincoln’s Knock Out Kaine didn’t really cross my radar until the early part of last year, with the release of their second album, ‘Rise Of The Electric Jester‘. However, they really lodged themselves in my musical conscience with their confident, strident and energetic performance on the first night of last month’s HRH AOR festival in the wilds of northern Wales.
Released to celebrate their recently-announced long-term signing with Manchester’s Rocksector Records, this EP – and, indeed, are many of their ilk – could perhaps be seen as something of a stopgap offering between albums. But, then, it’s always important for bands to offer their fans fresh material in order to keep them interested and, in a climate of spiralling costs and diminishing returns, EPs are a viable way of delivering same. And, in the case of KOK, it is also an opportunity for them to display the width of their sound in a relatively compressed space.
It is perhaps appropriate that ‘Cruel Britannia’ was actually released on the same day that the Panama-gate scandal, exposing the offshore investment shenanigans of various corporations and certain high profile political leaders, broke. The opening title track is an acerbic, acidic indictment of the system of governance/government (or lack thereof) that allows such situations to self-perpetuate: it is a defiant middle-finger retort to the establishment and how it looks after itself and its own, allowing the priviliged and rich to pleasure themselves (in every sense of the term) while the ordinary, working man continues to crawl around the gutters of shite piled upon his collective head. It has the feel of the Sex Pistols in its punky vibe, but also echoes the West Coast glam rock sound, with its vocal harmonies, insanely catchy main melody and Jimmy Bohemian’s winding main guitar line.
‘Love The Way You Hate’ is sharp and punchy, again with a very punky edge but this time more reminscent of the likes of Ugly Kid Joe in its vibrancy and danceability, underpinned by a simple DC-ish riff, with Dean Foxx’s joyous vocal perfectly counterpointing the grit of Bohemian’s guitar, which then explodes into life with a beautifully appointed and contrastingly polished solo. ‘Going Down’ is built around a classic and rambunctious blues-rock riff, while Foxx’s vocal has a very rockabilly strut to it, right down to the scatalogical “shooby doo wop” interjections, which actually evoke Dave Lee Roth’s styling – which is accentuated by the Van Halen feel to the second half of the song, right down to the “oh my God” in the fadeout.
The EP closes with a cover of Steve Earle’s iconic ‘Copperhead Road’ (which has been a staple of their live set for several years now). As I noted in my review of their performance in Pwllheli, it’s a faithful and proficient interpretation of the classic song, characterized by Foxx’s gritty, snarling vocal and Bohemian’s chilled out almost mournful guitar treatment, which brings out the song’s intrinsic melancholia and spirit of regret, before the second half of the song sees the band stick their foot on the pedal and roar off along this particular highway with a sense of unbridled optimism. It’s an interesting, and brave, choice of cover, but it actually works in a way in which so many others fail to achieve.
‘Cruel Britannia’ may be something of a filler offering, but it also a clear demonstration of the journey Knock Out Kaine have taken to date, where they have come from and where they stand now, and certainly sees them looking forward with assured confidence and a swagger in their step.
Cruel Britannia / Love The Way You Hate / Going Down / Copperhead Road
Recommended listening: Cruel Britannia
‘Cruel Britannia’ is out now on Rocksector Records.
Knock Out Kaine play the following dates over the coming months:
Saturday 23 April – Nottingham, International Tattoo Convention
Thursday 12 May – London, The Garage
Sunday 15 May – Workington, Monroe’s
Thursday 19 May – Glasgow, EWG3
Friday 20 May – Leeds, Key Club
Saturday 21 May – Belgium, Wildfest
Saturday 9 July – Liverpool, Krazyhouse
Sunday 17 July – Manchester, SOS Festival
Friday 26 August – Birmingham, Unplug
Sunday 28 August – Nottingham, Degeneration Festival
Live photograph by Sean Larkin © PlanetMosh 2016.