Michael Knott

Fluid

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Originally, Fluid was set to follow Screaming Brittle Siren in Knott's canon of solo releases. The record was completed by 1993 and ads for the record began appearing later that year. But when Knott's Blonde Vinyl label went belly-up after its distributor (Spectra) filed for bankruptcy, the record became tangled up in legalities and hung in limbo while Knott made Rocket and a Bomb. It was finally released almost three years later to great anticipation, but the end result was something of a letdown. It shouldn't have been -- Fluid was operating within the same constraints as some of Knott's strongest work. Like The Grape Prophet, Fluid was a rock opera, this time about a woman named Jennie Mae who steals her boyfriend's Cadillac and takes it for a joyride. She crashes the car and ends up comatose and fighting for her life. For the rest of the record, God and the devil battle for her soul. It's a construct that's a bit bloated and far-fetched, but Knott had pulled off highwire acts in the past with considerable aplomb. So it's a shame when Fluid falls flat, which it does almost immediately. Despite the fact that songs like "Crash" are driven by scorching electric leads and deft choruses, Fluid feels more formulaic than Knott's early records. Unlike the dark, harrowing, claustrophobic Screaming Brittle Siren, Fluid is submerged in studio sheen. The songs are slick and radio-friendly, especially the plodding "Stars" and "Thru." But the biggest error on the record is Knott's atypical literalness. Though The Grape Prophet was based on a very specific story, Knott sang in such abstract terms that the record never sounded forced or ponderous. On Fluid, just the opposite is true. He is constantly singing directly about Jennie Mae (frequently invoking her name), and his prose is clunky and indelicate ("Kiss me once before I die/This gaping hole has made a pool/It feels so cold when you break the rules"). The strongest song on the record is written from the perspective of the devil. Sneering and sinister, Knott inhabits the character completely, begging, "Good seed sower/Send Jenny on over." The rest of the record foreshadowed the same obsession with studio polish that would later sink the Aunt Bettys.

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