A thousand lo-fi flowers have bloomed in Brooklyn — bands you know, like the Vivian Girls, and ones you don’t, but should, like Knight School, who’ve just released their debut album, Revenger. While everyone else in the indie universe is fascinated with all things down-tempo — minimalist techno and chamber pop, to say nothing of the various chillwave bands that ruled 2009 — these acts celebrate a wild freneticism, a wailing, sweating, and twitching indie rock. They also reach back a bit further than most indie acts do, incorporating surf guitar and girl-group harmonies to make something that’s at once subversive and really, really enjoyable. Think the Misfits covering the Beach Boys on a home tape recorder.
Revenger fits this pattern nicely. The project of Kevin Alvir, Chris Balla, and (usually) drummer Jed Smith, it’s the document of Brooklyn DIY sound. The songs here are simple, short (its 11 tracks don’t even reach 30 minutes), spare, and at times chaotic. Not that there’s a whole lot going on; most tracks are just two guitars and harmonized, overmodulated vocals. Yet there’s something irresistibly catchy about them, and a few of the record’s songs are impossibly fun — “I’m Your Band” and “Idiot Wizards” are obvious hits. “Band” combines Casio drums, a bop back-and-forth guitar line, simple lyrics, and one of the album’s only instances of really set-loose guitars. “Wizards” sounds like a Yo La Tengo demo, or the Pixies at their most playful. Then there’s the album’s closer, “Meathead Hurricane,” its loudest and most consistently enjoyable track.
Like a lot of DIY things, Revenger has its obvious shortcomings, not the least of them in production. The album sounds as if it were recorded on the school library’s tape deck, in a tunnel. It’s possible to hear this record as half-hour of static that never changes volume (dynamics are definitely not Knight School’s forte). Still, this is a record that’s worth listening to. There’s some real sunny pop buried deep in that lo-fi muck.