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The Raving Knaves – Atom Age

May 21st, 2012 | By | Category: Feature

I’ve been friends and a fan of the Raving Knaves nearly since they first formed, and I’ve begged and pleaded for this first CD, Atom Age, for every holiday until it finally was released.  The Raving Knaves practice almost weekly in our garage, and we’ve been treated to our own private concerts many times.  To say I’m a fan is really an understatement. I’ve heard songs arranged and re-arranged, and they get better all the time. Some of those new arrangements are improvements on the CD, produced by Britt “Snuzz” Uzell, with guest performances by Paula McLean on keyboad and Nancy McCurry on six song’s worth of backing vocals.

The Raving Knaves are fronted by advertising and public relations man David McLean, owner of King’s English in downtown Greensboro on lead guitar and vocals, so it’s no surprise that the end product, Atom Age, is nearly flawless from start to finish. Having said that, the CD pales slightly in comparison to experiencing The Raving Knaves live and in person.  I had a chance to talk with The Raving Knaves about their formation, the CD, and what they’re really all about.

When the band formed, it was a quartet with guitarist/vocalist Chris Micca and drummer Andy Foster, both of whom are now the rhythm section of The Lake Isle.  “The Raving Knaves” comes from a song McLean wrote in mid-80s.  Since they are heavily Brit-influenced, it fits.  I asked McLean and bassist Dan Bayer what they did when Micca and Foster left for other opportunities.  McLean said that his friend Nancy McCurry, with whom he played in a couple of bands, recommended a Grimsley High alumnus who had recently returned to Greensboro after living Los Angeles since the late 70’s.  It took one audition with the “Swiss Eagle” Adrian Foltz to know that he was the third Raving Knave.

Dave McLean of the Raving KnavesFoltz, a triplet-playing disciple of Gene Krupa, told me he learned drum riffs by watching his favorite bands on Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert, The Midnight Special, and his first band was out making money at 12 and 13 years old.  Foltz ‘s resume includes LA band The Droogs and playing jobs all over Southern California at venues like the venerable Whisky a Go Go.

I wanted to know why they titled their debut album Atom Age, and each of them said they wanted it to have a 60’s mod vibe that reflected the time period they all grew up in and that influenced them.

McLean said their fan base seems to be under 30 and over 50, and that people who aren’t hung up on the sanctity of “indie-for-indie’s sake” seem to appreciate the album and the performances. I concur with that.  The songs are danceable, catchy, and stick in your head nicely.  They told me it was important to play with younger bands to remain relevant, as a band that plays hyped-up 60s-influenced rock and roll with appreciation for R&B.  Some of the local bands they share gigs with include The Nondenoms, The Leeves, The Old One-Two, Big Attack!, Switchblade 85, and similarbands with a strong backbeat and pop sensibility.  Bayer summed up, “The further you get away from R&B influences, the further you get away from rock and roll.”

McLean’s and Bayer’s favorite song on the album is Pho Hien Vong, a tribute to a local Vietnamese restaurant..  “It’s not just about the restaurant, but more a statement of what’s going on now in society,” said Bayer, “a society in transition.”   Foltz’s favorite is Atom Age because “it’s just a wonderfully crafted pop rock song that could have been on The Knack’s first album.”

Dave McLean of the Raving KnavesAtom Age has a number of references in the songs that made me wonder if the audience “got it.”  “Never underestimate the intelligence of your audience,” said McLean. He learned a lot from Bob Dylan and by looking up the references in his songs.  “You should plant ‘easter eggs’ so people will look it up,” said McLean.  The songwriting is a collaborative effort between the three Knaves, with Foltz being responsible for a lot of the arranging.  “He’s the showman,” says McLean, “He brings professionalism to the process.”

The CD clocks in at just under 30 minutes with 10 songs, but the band has over 30 original songs (10 of which I hope will be on a sophomore album – the Knaves expect that out next year).  Again, if you have the chance to see them live, that’s the best way to experience The Raving Knaves – and buy a CD. While the CD is outstanding, it does not match watching these three perform in person.

It would be difficult for me to pick a favorite track, but I would likely go with “Midwest Queen,” the song that really hooked me on The Raving Knaves.  There are songs about America (“Just Like England”), a song about the hotness of a girl with intellect (“Fleshhound”), songs about where we are in life (“Mannekin Pis”), and just straight up rock and roll (“Power Trio Girl”).  All the songs on Atom Age are fun, thought-provoking, funny, infectious beats, and not a ballad on the whole damn CD, which I appreciate.  The band says the album has “gone Cubic Zirconia” and it’s available at CDBaby.com, CFBG, and at their shows.

My own enthusiasm for The Raving Knaves has not stopped a lot of others from really digging their music.  Foltz sums it up nicely – “The best thing about being a Knave is making fun music that rocks.  When I look out into the audience and see them smiling and tapping their feet and dancing, that is a great feeling.”
Atom Age receives my highest recommendation – 5 stars.

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2 Comments to “The Raving Knaves – Atom Age”

  1. Julie Joyce says:

    Any band that writes a song about the best noodle hut in town gets my attention.

  2. Bill Wolfe says:

    "Atom Age" is the rare album where I like every song, start to finish. Another good sign: since buying the album last year, each song has taken a turn as my fave rave. Thanks for the positive write-up.

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