In my five years as a pro word whore, The Knux rank among the most naturally gifted musicians I’ve ever seen. Before anyone had heard of them, they had management deals with Matthew Knowles and then Paul Rosenberg. They played multiple instruments, made beats that fused psychedelic rock, New Wave and boom-bap, and rapped well. Their 2005-06 self-produced demo sparked a bidding war, before Interscope scooped them up and promptly realized that they didn’t have a clue what to do with them.

Their debut Remind Me in Three Days was too early and under-promoted to catch the wave of hipster rap. They wore skinny jeans and rocked guitars when it was considered weird not cool. Moreover, the hipster label seemed ill-fitting for two guys whose warrant for car theft popped up when the LA Weekly researchers tried to confirm the facts of my story. Their last album, Eraser, was a disappointment. The songs were well-made but bloodless.  The disorientation and scuffed Chuck strut of the “Cappuccino Remix” (still my favorite thing they’ve done), was replaced by polished top 40 pop. That might work for LMFAO, but you got the sense that that’s the best LMFAO can do. The Knux seemed too talented to bend to the demands of licensing-hungry execs and radio programmer lemmings.

“Animal” marks a welcome return to the raw. No longer affiliated with Interscope, the new single is the most creatively liberated they’ve seemed in years. Reference points include The Pharcyde, The Doors, and maybe a little PM Dawn. Lyrically, it sticks in their wheelhouse of talking about girls and grams, but what’s most encouraging is that the Knux seem to have found firm creative footing. It sounds like the sort of music they should be making. Druggy and inviting.  The first time I interviewed them, we bonded over our love of The Gravediggaz. And after all, it was the Wu who proclaimed, if it ain’t raw, it’s worthless. Sometimes it’s just about remembering where you started.

MP3: The Knux – “Animal”

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