Drawing a dense crowd late to The Lilypad on an icy Saturday, Hands and Knees took the stage. The group has a long and enduring tenure, with their first record turned ten years old this past January and their sixth record released just last Veterans’ Day. It’s no surprise then, that the group played like a well maintained machine.
The performance was very accessible. I didn’t know their work well, aside from a cursory listen to their last album, Count to a Million Pineapples, but the performance Hands and Knees gave that night was very accessible, an accurate showcase of their discography that highlighted their strengths to those who might not be in the know.
One of the things that struck me about Hands and Knees was their balance of consistent tone and variety in composition. A common sound can make for a sense of repetition, numbing the listener by the end of the performance, but excessive variety can throw the listener off with shifts that might not feel very natural. Hands and Knees finds a good balance between the two. Much of their arrangement and playing style is similar across their songs, but their songwriting kept the mood varied, making for a performance that maintained interest and attention without feeling too disjointed.
Hands and Knees wear their influences on their sleeves. Vocal performances feature the cadence and phrasing of a Velvet Underground era Lou Reed. Much of the arrangement feels directly inspired by The Pixies. They tagged their latest album on Bandcamp with “Rubber Soul,” and that Beatles comparison is the best description of the compositional style and mood of the album. It moves back and forth between faster tunes that would be categorized as folk rock if they were acoustic, and slower more pensive songs that meditate on their subjects and styles.
Novel enough to enjoy and varied enough to keep your attention, Hands and Knees is a fun group. They’re not terribly innovative, using many tropes and devices that may be considered now cliche, but there are worse sins than being repetitive. I’d recommend Hands and Knees and their Count to a Million Coconuts album to most people interested in lo-fi indie pop.