The White Hole
By: Eric G.
Any band that purports to emulate the doctrine of Phil Collins and ends up sounding like a mutant mix of Six Finger Satellite, Gary Numan, and Kraftwerk is all right in my book. Knodel is a trio from Portland, Oregon, but the band claims its hometown is still French soil because it doesn't recognize the Louisiana Purchase. Awesome. Sure, the group wears matching suits on stage, but Knodel is no Man Or Astroman? wannabe. The band plays a deviant strain of synthetic rock with a self-absorbed philosophy inspired almost certainly by Devo.
All gimmicks aside, Knodel rocks. Songs like "We're Knodel", "Knodel World", and "Knodel On Tour" don't just seem self-indulgent- they are, and Knodel doesn't care. The band isn't trying to break any new ground on its debut full length, which piles layers and layers of synthesizers and programmed beats on top effects-laden vocals and edgy bass lines. The band wears its influences proudly on its collected sleeve. The songs are so damn catchy it hardly matters that Devo and Gary Numan already did this twenty years ago.
Knodel's music is dark and aggressive, but its lyrics are ridiculously funny. "O.F.R" features a vocoder repeating the mantra "Out-fucking-rageous/let's break the rules, y'all" while a keyboard line reminiscent of early Depeche Mode builds on top of a dance-floor beat. It's absurd but addictive. "Knodel In Stereo" sounds just like pretentious early-eighties electro-pop, complete with affected, paranoid vocals, but with lyrics like "coming in the right channel/Knodel in stereo" you can't help but laugh.
Knodel injects a white-hot poker into the face of new wave without even cracking a smile. The band would have you believe that The White Hole is a concept album about the complex sound of Knodel in futuristic France, where Phil Collins and the Scorpions rule. Just take a look at the cover art: a giant Tron-like face stares up at a dark sky over an open highway. It looks like a bad Styx outtake, but it sounds like the catchiest batch of retro-electronic pop tunes I've heard all year.