Despite a strong and loyal following in Alberta and peppered here and there throughout western Canada, in some ways Knucklehead are one of Canada’s best kept secrets. They’ve been around for almost twenty years now, creating some of the best, most sincere, most sole-bouncingly catchy street punk in the world today. Yes, the world. With a discography that spans five proper albums, five 7″‘s, two EP’s and a self recorded and released cassette tape affectionately titled “Keep Your Hands Off My Sister” Knucklehead are bonafide Canadian punk veterans and, dare I say it without making them feel really old, legends.
If you grew up in the 80’s in or around Edmonton or Calgary’s minuscule punk scenes, you grew up with SNFU. If you grew up in the 90’s in or around Edmonton or Calgary’s punk scenes, then you invariably grew up, to some extent, with Knucklehead and their socio-political anthems providing the soundtrack to your formative formulation into adulthood. Or Chixdiggit, if you had a sweet tooth for bubblegum pop-punk.
Knucklehead are a blue collar band and as such may not be as widely known as other Calgary punk exports like Chix or Belvedere, but that’s only because family life and a steady job take priority over the music, which is a decision many fine bands have to make when they realize that the scene isn’t ripe for another “Dookie” and they won’t be the next Green Day.
But even as those grey hairs start to peek through and those glasses prescriptions get a little thicker, Knucklehead keep playing shows sporadically, sometimes their own and sometimes in support of other bands passing through. And they keep recording and releasing music, these days through Longshot Music and front-running street punk label Pirates Press Records, who have released Knucklehead’s latest 7″ “Cold Civil War.
The first side of the record contains the song “Cold Civil War” and it’s a humdinger, if you’ll permit the flowery language. Stylistically, it contains all the elements fans of the band have come to expect: chunky guitars, shout along choruses and lyrics that reflect a bitter taste in the mouth for the current political climate. It seems to beg the question ‘is it better these days to abstain from voting in protest, or vote for the lesser of two evils?’
The b-side contains the song “Riots and Tears.” Another catchy, battling ram anthem that feels like a sequel to “Cold Civil War” in its message that yes, things may not be ideal right now, but change is on the horizon and life goes on.
Knucklehead has changed very little over the years. And I mean you listen to their 1996 album “Another Neurotic Episode” (good luck finding that one) and with better production values, you could put any one of those songs on their latest record and not question its placement for a minute. There’s something comforting about that, having a band you can rely on throughout the years not to go off and into some Youth Brigade/The Brigade fiasco of creative rediscovery. Some things are better left untouched. I’m not saying these are the best songs Knucklehead has every released, but they are both solid additions to one of the most impressive catalogues in street punk.
There’s absolutely zero doubt in my mind that Knucklehead would be a household name (if your household listened to street punk) from coast to coast and tip to toenails if they had the ability to tour their asses off in support of their releases. As it is I count myself among the lucky few who do live in Alberta and await patiently the announcement from the band on new shows in either Edmonton or Calgary and have no problem making the three hour jaunt to catch them in both cities when they do. For the rest of you, and barring a very unlikely world tour announcement from the band sometime in the future, you’ll have to be satisfied with their current discography, some of which is easily attainable and much of which is very out of print. Which means some cyber digging or pawn shop perusing if you’re ever in the area, a lot of work perhaps for a band you may never see live, but oh so worth it. Go over to iTunes, look up “Cold Civil War” drop two bucks in the digital jukebox and crank that puppy, you’ll see what I mean.