Released: August 19, 2008
Label: Polyvinyl Record Co.
By: Will Butler
It’s rare when you can find an album with a potent mix of anger, intelligence, theatricality and competent musicianship in one package…and it doesn’t end in a grating, drawn-out disaster. Portland’s 31Knots deserves credit for delivering a solid album about a subject that is extremely tough to work around without sounding overly preachy, whiny, or just plain uninformed: life in a dystrophic society. The positives outweigh the negatives in “Worried Well”: a solid mix of fiery indie rock and cold, synthetic computer-generated sounds as well as vocalist Joe Haege’s Vaudevillian tendencies help create a dark yet whimsical mood. Also, the band changes styles enough to make every song sound unique. However, the theatricality of the album also can be one of the few negatives on this album, as moments like a seemingly unnecessary forced series of laughs on the second track keep this album from reaching its full potential.
There are a number of songs that are worth a listen here; tracks such as “Something Up This Way Comes,” “Upping the Mandate,” “Strange Kicks,” and “Compass Commands” all have something different to offer, and they’re all solid. However, “The Breaks” is by far the album’s strongest point. Here, the theme of dealing with a nightmare Orwellian bureaucracy is driven by Haege’s haunting vocals, a drumbeat that changes from anticipatory to frantic at the drop of a hat, and a combination of grinding guitar melodies and sterile computer-generated sounds that strikes a good balance between the organic and the artificial.