Out for the count.
It has been three long years since 2010's album, Among The Vultures (or four in the band's native Sweden), a hard-rocking album that was nominated for Best Punk Rock Album at the 2011 Independent Music Awards. The judging panel featured members of Aerosmith, Good Charlotte and Ozzy Osbourne, and should really be the catalyst that propels the band to where they should rightly be.
The Knockouts are not a band that will bow down to either fashions nor fickle fools. With no apologies they indulge in an interesting mix of dirty Rock'n'Roll and Rockabilly, delivered with a Punk Rock sneer and adrenaline fuelled passion. The band have toured with the great Rockabilly God Brian Setzer, however it's hard to think of The Knockouts as a Rockabilly band; sure Kennet Stone plays the Double Bass, so there is that distinctive thudding beat, but Rockabilly has a forgivable tendency to live in the past where life was about Guys & Dolls, T-Birds, diners, quiffs and Brothel-Creepers and the such-like, whereas The Knockouts live firmly in the present mixing in the Punk'n'Roll that is highly addictive. And of course singer/guitarist Johan Frandsen has a voice similar to that of Backyard Babies' Nicke Borg, rather than an Elvis-esque croon.
Album opener, The Young Will Overcome starts with galloping guitar riffs, before building into a sing-a-long Rock'n'Roll track, taking us on a journey through America, and showcasing that the band are carrying on nicely from where the previous album finished. Days Long Gone chugs along like a freight-train and could make the most docile of folk nod their head to a beat that never lets up. Then in Sweet Bluebird Valley, Johan sings, "I fell in love with a million dollar country // I fell in love with the sunshine of you", in a song that increases the tempo again up another notch. It is then perhaps, of some relief that things slow down a touch before any respiratory injuries occur from the jumping around listener. The Ballad Of Rosa Lee has a wonderful Country feel to it nodding in appreciation to the liberation of a wandering soul.
Salvation Song is wonderfully crafted, bounding on in mid-tempo proving that things don't have to be a million miles an hour to rock. Then we have some whisky-soaked Blues-Rock in the cautionary tale that is, A Farewell Gone To Hell. I hate to compare the two bands again, but in Hometown Grounds we have the very Backyard Babies-esque Sleaze-Rock feel with the great lines of, "Then he jumped the gun and swallowed the bait // He's deep into trouble and now it's too late // That boy's like dynamite filled with hate..." And again, when you feel the album may've peaked you are proved wrong as the next song End Of Roddy Rhodes is a killer; a ballad of a dangerous man.
You have to remind yourself that this band are indeed Swedish, as in the title track, 5000 Miles From Louiseville, it is obvious which country holds the heart of this band, and their influences have a Southern American feel. Here there is a shuffle-beat, and earthy feel of a Country-Blues, that is a simple but effective song. The Way Til The End ups the beat slightly and I could imagine courting couples swinging around to this in a Country bar as many a man smiles to his chosen partner mouthing, "Nothing ventured and nothing gained..." along with the song. Things go more Punk Rock in the infectious, Pennies And Quarters, before the upbeat ending of last track, Stars Of Us takes us to our limits and like a good first date, we are left hot, sweaty and out of breathe.
This is The Knockouts' fourth studio album, and finally the band are starting to be taken seriously for the great music that they produce. There is a skill and an art form in the ability to take a number of genres and mix them together and come up with something that is not only fresh, but has a sound that will not date. It's hard Rocking, but with a touch of sentimentality that we can relate to. It's accessible, but multi-layered so as once the catchiness of the beats and melodies grab you, the lyrics hold on tight and refuse to let you go. I unapologetically compare The Knockouts to The Backyard Babies, a wonderful band, but a band that peaked and then slowly ran out of ideas on their final two albums. The Knockouts therefore are a much better band who managed to hit the mark each time. I can't honestly say that this album is better than the band's previous album, but hand on heart, I cannot say it's not as good either. It's a bit Sleazy, it's a bit Bluesy, it's a little bit Country, but most of all it kicks some Hard Rocking ass!