Goldfinger - The Knife (Cover Artwork)

Goldfinger

The Knife (2017)

Rise Records


Look, I was not expecting to like this album. I've ragged on a lot of bands for replacing key members of their band and trying to continue on like it's the same band, especially when the only original member is the lead singer. But as I pointed out in my review of Pixies’ Head Carrier, which members you can replace and continue on without varies from band to band. I mean, Robert Smith has replaced all the members of The Cure several times now, and I'm not going to complain about it because he's Robert Smith and if he wants to make The Cure his solo project, I think he's earned that right by this point.

So, here I am with the new Goldfinger record. John Feldmann has replaced every member of the band but himself, and normally I would write this album off as one to be ignored. The thing is, most of the time when a frontman does that, he replaces his former bandmates with a cast of no-names. Instead, Feldmann turned Goldfinger into a punk supergroup with Mike Herrera of MxPx, Phillip Sneed of Story of the Year, and the most amazing drummer in punk today, Travis Barker. (Yes, I know I trashed MxPx on this site before, but if I was in a band and was asked if I wanted Mike Herrera to become my new bass player, I'd absolutely say yes!) So my initial skepticism was replaced by curiosity. It's a smart move by Feldmann, as the big names draw attention away from the loss of former bandmates, and also because it means that every new member is at least as talented as the person they replaced, especially on drums.

Feldmann's done some work as a producer in the nine years Goldfinger has been on hiatus. The bands he's worked with are the poppiest part of the pop-punk spectrum including Good Charlotte, The Used, and the band that barely qualifies as punk and has opened for One Direction, 5 Seconds of Summer. The only thing he’s produced that I like is Blink-182’s brilliant comeback album, California. His production work seems to focus on work of much more poppy, commercialized work than his own in Goldfinger. So right there, I go back to skepticism, wondering if his production work meant that The Knife would lean more towards the cookie-cutter pop-punk style of some of the artists he's worked with.

Well, The Knife is poppier than anything Goldfinger has put out before, but not to the point where some of his producing work has taken him, and nothing to the boy-band-with-guitars level of 5 Seconds of Summer. That’s not to say that there are no traces of what he’s learned as a pop producer mixed into The Knife. Rather, it sounds like Feldmann has taken some of what he's learned and blended it with his own, classic Goldfinger style.

Travis Barker is just straight up showing off on this album, which I mean as a compliment. His drum arrangements are always about 10 times more complicated than they actually need to be to make the songs work, which makes his drumming one of the most fun parts of the album. Officially, he’s a guest star and not a full member, as he’s not joining the band on tour and appears on all but one track. The one track he’s not on, “Orthodontist Girl,” where he’s replaced by Twenty One Pilots drummer Josh Dun, the decline in quality is noticeable. Still, Barker, Sneed, and Herrerra are such hard rocking punk rock veterans that they ensure that, no matter how far Feldmann slips into something he learned from 5 Seconds of Summer, he’s still being backed up by some real punk power.

In some ways, Feldmann’s songwriting style has matured. Before, a lot of his lyrics would get very literal and lacking in style and poetry, especially when he was getting angry. On The Knife, Feldmann learns the grace of using metaphor in a way he never has before, but it still results in a rather shallow set of lyrics. While he may have done some co-songwriting on Blink’s California, it becomes clear that Mark Hoppus and Matt Skiba were doing the heavy lifting on that album. In fact, there's a lot of Blink-meets-Goldfinger sound on this album, always with inferior lyrics to that on California, and complete with a guest appearance from Mark Hoppus on the track “See You Around.” Since the vocals are almost a perfect 50/50 split between Hoppus and Feldmann, and since Travis Barker is basically in both bands, “See You Around” essentially becomes a half Goldfinger, half Blink song. “See You Around” is a significantly better song than the rest of the album, most likely due to Hoppus’s input. And, with Hoppus carrying a weaker songwriter, it’s like the old Blink-182 days with Tom DeLonge all over again.

That isn’t to say that Feldmann’s somewhat shallow lyrics can’t churn out some good songs. “Am I Deaf” is a clever little takedown of the music industry, and it especially makes me laugh with the second verse line “At this point, no one is listening/After chorus one everything is boring.” However, his question in the chorus of “Am I just a little left of what they listen to today” comes off as disingenuous considering he’s one of the people producing the music “they listen to today.” “Tijuana Sunrise” is a beautiful slowed down ska/reggae tune that’s, again, lyrically simplistic but shows a strong talent for writing pop hooks. The lead single, “Put the Knife Away” was a great choice for the first single as it’s the song on the album that gives all the new members the chance to really show off their musicianship skills. “Orthodontist Girl” is exactly what you would expect, a song of double entendres about orthodontristry, but Feldmann manages to be exceptionally clever while belting out a slick hook for the chorus. “Liftoff” sounds like it should be the album closer, being the most well done reggae tune on the album, and the lyrics become, not deeper, but certainly very clever. Instead, the album closes off with “Milla,” a tribute to Feldmann’s daughter that largely plays off of how many ways Feldmann can rhyme the word Milla, but it’s endearing nonetheless.

Overall, The Knife may be a mixed bag, and yes it sounds less like a classic Goldfinger record and more like the solo album of music producer John Feldmann, but overall the album is more good than bad. It’s perfect for a nice cruise with the windows down in the summertime when you don’t want to think too hard about anything. Travis Barker alone makes the whole album worth listening to, and Mark Hoppus’s cameo is the cherry on top. I may still rather go back and listen to Hang Ups, but The Knife has gotten a lot of plays on my iPhone and I definitely recommend that old school Goldfinger fans give it a try before dismissing it.