: July 2001: Smooch Knob
name sort of says it all. There's no artistic chest-thumping
going on here, just good old-fashioned fun with a decent
helping of sexual innuendo.
Well, maybe it's not even innuendo, especially
with a single just released on Breakneck Records called
"Penetration." Either way, Smooch Knob is about putting
fun first--often with what leader Don Rife admits is a
pubescent point of view--in a revved-up, slightly punkish
pop, anxious to race itself to a permanent place in your
The goofiness began back in 1997, not
long after Rife had moved to Portland from Iowa and found
himself tired of the prevailing grunge musical climate
and its inclination toward the depressing.
"The idea was to start a band that was
the opposite of grunge," he said. "I got tired of ten-minute
songs from grunge bands trying too hard to be deep, and
fitting that stereotypical rock-star image."
Hence titles such as "Penetration," "Weirdo,"
and "I Like Skin"--which predominate Smooch Knob's self-titled
CD--reveal lyrics such as, "I wanna see you with my one
good eye/what resides on the inside," or, "I know a guy
who had a magnet surgically implanted into his skull."
"I think the one thing you can say about
our music is that it's simple, straightforward, catchy,
and happens to be humorous sometimes," Rife said. "I'm
definitely against bands who are trying to be too deep."
That sense of fun has the same dirty little
snicker you'd find on a group of young boys who just discovered
someone's stash of Playboys. Much of Rife's lyrical
stuff oozes such adolescent revelry.
"It's about sexual frustration," he laughs.
"I've got tons of songs that a 12-year-old boy would write."
"Penetration," the single that just went
out to stations across the country, is just such a song.
The genesis for that randy tune came from a school band
trip back when Rife was 16 years old.
"We had some porno channel that was soft-core,
and we stayed up all night hoping to see some penetration,"
Rife said. "But they never showed anything. We were a
bunch of stupid teens who stayed up all night and spent
lots of money we didn't have."
Rife began writing the song back then
but never finished it. About nine years later, Rife and
guitarist John Young finished the song during recording
for the album, and it became the first
of two singles released with this CD.
On stage, the thing that immediately
sets Smooch Knob apart from others is the fact Rife
sits behind his drum kit and sings; but his drum kit
is up in front of the band.
"It certainly gets attention," Rife
said. "There are times we show up and the soundman says
'No way, you can't do that.' I'd rather choose to not
play than not do that. It's hard enough as a drummer
and singer to be visible, doing the whole lead-singer
thing. People have warned against it, but I think everyone
who's a drummer/singer should sit up front."
On the musical front, Smooch Knob's
spunky, guitar-driven material has a vibe not unlike
Everclear, Foo Fighters, and maybe a bit of Green Day.
"Penetration," "Inner Tube," and "Champ" seem keenly
tuned into Art Alexakis and friends, and Rife's vocals
even sound close to Alexakis's voice at times. Other
tunes, like "Weirdo," scurry ahead with the amplitude
poppiness of Green Day, while "Champ" opens with fast
stop/start rhythms that remind you of "My Sharona."
So, it's no surprise Rife admits to
being influenced by these bands. His affection for Weezer
is no wonder either, considering the band's sometimes
quirky, wacky take on everything from guitar lines to
lyrics about female X-Men members or masturbating in
"I'm not like a lot of people who hop
on the bandwagon to hate Everclear. They're a good band.
They're catchy, and the best thing about them is that
they're simple and they don't try to blow people away
with how many guitar solos they can do. It's straightforward,
simple fun. And that's what music's all about."
So, if some of this comical approach
to musical mayhem seems familiar, it should also come
as no shock that two members of now defunct funksters,
Love Lode, occupy half of Smooch Knob. Paul Lawrence--minus
the long hair of those wacky days of lore when Love
Lode would spin their long locks in sync with each other
on stage--was the lead singer of that band, but now
plays rhythm guitar in Smooch Knob. And bassist Shayne
Green now takes care of the bottom end of the Knob's
There's an unreleased Smooch Knob album
lurking out there, which Rife said is tentatively entitled
"Junior High Anthems." After Rife and the boys hooked
up with Portland-area sound whiz Ryan Foster and his
new Breakneck label, two albums were recorded.
"He loved it," said Rife, talking about
Foster's reaction to the mix. "We're going to start
shopping the second one around a little. We're talking
about going back into the studio and recording ten new
songs. But, we've released this one now, while we're
shopping the other one. I'd like to sell enough albums
to make it feasible to release the other one on Breakneck
Next up for the boys is a bit of touring
the Midwest and crossing their fingers that "Penetration"
starts getting into rotation. It's already made a stir
at a commercial station down in Medford, Oregon.
"Our management got a call from them
saying, 'We featured it on Yank It or Crank It, and
got a great response,'" Rife said. "I guess it wound
up basically being tied, though. So, maybe a commercial
pop radio station isn't the right place
Maybe not. But this publication thinks
the Smooch Knob sound will catch on somewhere, 'cause
boys just wanna have fun.
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