With his creative light hidden firmly under a bushel, Chris Knox continues to bake up fresh and flaky pastry from the scratchiest of scratch. Better known as the prolific songwriting half of New Zealand's magnificent and messy Tall Dwarfs, Knox positively … see full wiki
It's a platitude that Knox's albums, with or without a Tall Dwarf, defy easy distinction given their uniformly high ratio of successes to clunkers. "Yes" starts out on the first five songs in typically strong fashion. I keep hearing Robyn Hitchcock here, which can be frustrating, for he and Knox are nearly exactly parallel in their ages, career-lengths, and influences from earlier music. So, Knox is, I emphasize, not imitating RH or vice-versa. But if you like one, you'd probably like the other.
Knox is as intelligent as Hitchcock but tries less to be clever or whimsical; Knox's delivery tends towards the thoughtful rather than the surreal. This collection leans towards a dense guitar sound recalling Phil Manzanera's processed contributions to early Eno/Roxy Music. Combined with less of a Beatle (both Paul and John) fixation that for me has weakened his songcraft, the emphasis more on early 70s art-rock, from the same roots Hitchcock has shared and expanded, makes for a more focused, intense delivery. The bagpipes on Pibroch work well, and such experimentation adds to the usual accomplished range Knox shows.
The rest of the album's less inspired, but moves along well enough. He sounds happier here--I guess the reason for the record's title--than on other efforts, judging from the lyrics and slightly sunnier style. Predictably if not panderingly, there is the requisite nod to Brian Wilson on one song. The end, however, of track 14 degenerates after an extended silence back into a quarter-hour of goofing around in the studio which does the rest of the album no credit, and lessens the earlier maturity. You know, dealing with Knox's records, that some silliness threatens on the margins, but it shouldn't be allowed to invade the center of the art he frames otherwise nicely here.