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coverpic flag US - Texas - Full Moon 70 - 06/24/02

Knife in the Water
Crosspross Bells
Peek-A-Boo Recordings

Last time I saw 'em, the Knife, Aaron Blount had a ghastly split lip and tooth half-chipped too, making it painful to smile wide or drink beer symmetrically. Each pull from a Brooklyn Lager caused a slight grimace still. A hissing near-rictus at such pain. Explanations for it vacillated between nightstand and cowboy boot trip-up to lady-wielded tire iron out on the black night East Coast highway. Said lady, Laura Krause, was cold, already missing Austin's 85° weather. But did she do it? Her answers, like her man's, were abstracted and riddled with spaces like Barrow's terraplane rider.

Somehow those malevolent gaps carry over onto the newest EP, Crosspross Bells, their first on local label, Peek-A-Boo. Whispers and secrets of the two are intact, perhaps even more breath and falling voices in these five tunes than ever previous. But why did it take me so damned long to draw that slow narcotic feeling of theirs from the first few songs? It didn't hit me really, not in the bloodstream coursing, as of course the two LPs before had. Knife in the Water has imbibed and chemically balanced simmering bloodlust, heated pill wooziness, and Texas hill country humidity in a way not seen since George and Tammy, or with Gram Parsons and Emmy Lou Harris, but never this far South. And never with so many dead birds stuck into their imagery like wet feathers in their teeth. Even at an EP's length of twenty-five minutes, there was little doubt to my mind that the drugs would work. Until then, I was just sitting there, silent at the bar, waiting for it to take effect.

Cuz all the junk inside your mouth you can't communicate
By the time you spit it out it's gonna be too late

Laura's "la-la's" maybe, on the first song, spitting as if with broken tooth chips, lips dripping numb. Spittle of dirt clots, her tongue beyond the open of the grave, or something pendant dropping beyond the planks. I wanted to ask them for an interview, but it never seemed to come out between drags of a cigarette, the emptying of bottles and bladders clattering as we sat around after the show, wasted and waiting. I began a conversation with a friend of theirs, noticing how her lipstick glinted in the bar light, how her words would glide out.

We were sitting in the yard, throwing bottles at the trees
Thinking about the permafrost hanging on from last year's freeze

This time, we chuck the finished bottles at the hollow stage, the glass splattering in sharp drops across the floor of the bar. Slumping further towards the void of 3am, we continued to put the whisky and Jagermeister to our lips. Medicinal, mumbled, the mouth of real darkness opening before us with each shot. "Crosshair Chapel" is this moment in miniature, even at seven plus minutes. Here is where Knife in the Water achieves its true dreadful bliss. Wavering, the silent staggers behind the slow held breath of notes, the exhalations of small glass jaggers patient in their waiting to arise for blood. The band waits too, comfortable in such a negative space. The pedal steel of Bill McCullough eases the rider just enough for the glint to appear 'cross the strings, and then just as quickly it abates. Cisco Ryder and Mark Nathan have the wavering heart in their hands as its embers gently dissipate at last call. The shadows grow into the wee hours with them, into the endless ending of nights allayed, the inevitable delayed another second, gratefully gliding.

You won't feel your body anymore

I follow her out to the street corner, move to kiss her after two shots of Jager. Loosely, our lips merged. "Medicinal," we mumbled, laughed, our tongues back to dancing. Her lips fomented, opening for me, our shadowy forms fervid. The world started to fall from my shoulders, hat to the ground, jean rivets hot and clacking together, everything falling as her head would clang against the iron gates, the force of our hungry tongues struggling to soothe each other's final flames. In Alphabet City, everyone cheers: "Yeah" or "Get it." Like hissing of glasses spilling over the fires, the bystanders open their mouths. The black bars ring and resonate from her drunken skull falling back with me, my own blood hungry and fervent, shut eyes seeing all.

Laura was sent to find us entangled on the street corner. She led us back to the bar, the remaining patrons, the last of the bar light. They look at my lips smeared. The murderous couple murmurs a lullaby, "When Trouble Goes to Seed," so soft, just as the blood-red lights fade into those rosy tips of morn. All I have is the afterglow and the still-ringing of lost passions. As I smile knowingly now, the liquor in my depths burning, I feel my feverish lips split wide.

Copyright © 2002 Andy Beta e-mail address

You may also want to check out our Knife in the Water articles/reviews: Plays one sound and others, Red River + Sunset Motel (7"), Slavery b/w Redbird.

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