CD Review: The Knack – Normal As The Next Guy

CD Review: The Knack – Normal As The Next Guy
Omnivore Recordings
All Access Rating: A

The Knack - Normal As The
Next Guy 2015 
Normal As The Next Guy was The Knack's last hurrah, at least as far as studio albums go. Released in 2001, it was the follow-up to 1998's Zoom, a record that The Knack hoped would bring a resurgence of interest in their sparkling, girl-obsessed brand of power-pop. The silence that greeted Zoom, however, was deafening.

Bitterly disappointed by the reception, commercial and otherwise, for Zoom, members of The Knack threw themselves into outside projects, but Normal As The Next Guy eventually came together and was sent out into the music universe in 2001. Holding onto the belief that lightning would strike twice and they would rise to the top of the charts like it was 1979 all over again, when the listening public fell in love with "My Sharona" and found their debut LP as addictive as crack, The Knack had their collective fingers crossed for Normal As The Next Guy. Again, fortune did not favor them, and Doug Fieger's health declined, culminating in his death from cancer in 2010.

In the liner notes to Omnivore Recordings' expanded reissue, bassist Prescott Niles said that "Normal As The Next Guy should be remembered as a good album and the start of The Knack's last page." As endings go, this one had some interesting twists. Stepping lively, The Knack goes country on the infectious, honky-tonkin' "Spiritual Pursuit" and looks temptation square in the eye and succumbs, while the sublime psychedelia of "The Man On The Beach," a sophisticated, gorgeously arranged pop song full of winsome vocal harmonies, shaken bells and piano infused with wintry ennui, seems to have drifted in from The Beach Boys' Pet Sounds sessions.

Wonderfully diverse and absolutely charming, with The Knack seemingly liberated by the lack of expectations for this record, Normal As The Next Guy is a warmer, more down-to-earth record than Zoom. Here, the irresistibly lighthearted summertime anthem "Les Girls" takes a walk on a tropical beach and ogles all the pretty women, while "A World of My Own" and "It's Not Me" snap, crackle and pop with effervescent guitars and "Disillusion Town" jangles and gleams like shiny chrome when the sun hits it just right. Sighing and swooning in a lovesick lament, "Seven Days of Heaven" longs for its feelings to be reciprocated, and an aching remake of "One Day At A Time," from the band's Serious Fun LP, struggles to deal with a devastating break-up.

Augmented with insightful liner notes and three enjoyable songwriting demos from Fieger that shed some light on how "Seven Days in Heaven," "Spiritual Pursuit" and "Reason To Live" came together so magically, Normal As The Next Guy is actually rather extraordinary, its humility and candid, reflective nature revealing its authors to be vulnerable, tender souls who approach life with an open heart and a sharp wit. It's not just the little girls who understand them.
– Peter Lindblad

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