The Fabulous Knickerbockers – Lies

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For my next album, I’ve decided to go with Lies by The Fabulous Knickerbockers. The Fabulous Knickerbockers (often referred to as just The Knickerbockers) are a mid-60s garage rock band from New Jersey. This album, their last studio album recorded together, was released in 1966 on Challenge Records. The band became briefly famous for a single released from this album, “Lies.” As the first song on the album, “Lies” thrusts the listener right into the heart of middle 60s rock ‘n’ roll. The song has become infamous for its similarity to songs of The Beatles from this same period. In fact, many listeners have often mistaken the song for a “lost” Beatles track upon first hearing it. Buddy Randell, the lead vocalist, has a voice uncannily similar to John Lennon’s. It’s a great song for an imitation. If you’re going to imitate another artist though, it might as well be the best there is. The second song, “I Can Do It Better” is a solid garage rock love song. It has nice simple, fast beats that capture mood perfectly. It also boasts a brief but challenging guitar solo. “Can’t You See I’m Tryin'” is a slower love song. It sounds quite typical of the era, but it’s ordinariness doesn’t make it a bad song. The fourth song on the album is by far my favorite. “Please Don’t Fight It” is broken down into simple chords for most of the song but then explodes into a harmony of noise which harkens to protopunk. The final song on side one is “Just One Girl.” It’s faster and heavier than most songs on the album. This is the kind of song that must have influenced other early punk bands. Side two is actually quite different from side one. “I Believe in Her” is heavy on the vocals, almost like a hymn. It’s almost as if side two is a different band than side one. “Wishful Thinking” enters the blue-eyed soul genre. It sounds like a song that would be played as a slow dance at a high school prom in the 1960s. By the time you reach “You’ll Never Walk Alone” you may be thinking that The Fabulous Knickerbockers forgot that they’re a garage rock band. This song is another slow song with deep heavy vocals. With “Your Kind of Lovin'” The Fabulous Knickerbockers remember that they can play faster, but still more of a soul harmony than garage rock or protopunk. As if side two wasn’t already weird, the final song, “Harlem Nocturne” is a sax-heavy jazz song. It’s an instrumental, and Buddy Randell is a pretty decent saxophone player, but I have no idea what in the hell the song is doing on this album. Overall, this album is strange. Side one is solid garage rock. It’s nothing spectacular but the songs are worth listening to. By side two the band was out of material or just wanted to experiment or something, because it doesn’t fit. I’m not saying that side two is bad, just that it’s completely out of context. The songs might be great on a different album. I have to give this album a lower rating even though I really liked side one. It’s just not cohesive.  C

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