Mike Knott - Strip Cycle (CD)

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  • New Factory Sealed
  • 1995 Tooth & Nail Records
  • TND1025

Michael Knott's first predominately acoustic record was Rocket and a Bomb, a Nashville Skyline-esque collection of mid-tempo stories and songs. It was a bold shift in direction and one that he mastered ably and easily. Strip Cycle, Knott's next acoustic outing, was a sharp 360-degree turn from Rocket and a Bomb's welcoming tone. Marrying Knott's skewed songwriting sensibility with his newfound appreciation for being unplugged, Strip Cycle reads like a Roky Erickson record. He sings about junkie rock stars and deranged girlfriends in a direct, plainspoken manner that belies the lunacy of his subject matter. An entire track is built around the repeated phrase "I'm on fire/I'm burnin' on fire," and "Tattoo," the record's strongest song, seems to tell of a prostitution ring gone awry. Adding to the overall aura of insanity is the fact that Knott's guitar was purloined and de-tuned by his daughter, Stormie Lane, hours before the recording was to begin. Knott liked the new tunings so much that he retained them for the record. As a result, notes are unnaturally bent and the sound of loose strings snapping against the fretboard causes the guitar itself to serve as another percussion instrument. Strip Cycle also finds Knott speaking candidly about two intensely personal subjects: his dire financial straits and his constant battle with alcoholism. The former is the subject of "Bad Check." Against a weeping cello and warped acoustic strum, Knott sighs, "Sometimes I wish those shiny red lights on cop cars were just big bright cherries/I wanna bowl/I wanna knock down some pins." It is a moment of naked honesty that ranks among Knott's finest moments. Also stirring -- but for entirely different reasons -- is the album-ending "Denial." Its chorus is grim and unrepentant: "I feel free with God and a bottle in me." That the song ends abruptly with a piercing scream is itself a sort of commentary. Though there isn't a single electric instrument on the record, Strip Cycle burns with all the fury and intensity of Screaming Brittle Siren and Shaded Pain.

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