by Jon Pruett

FM Knives

w/A-Frames (record release show), the Pulses

Sat May 3, Zak's, 9:30 pm, $5.

As punk rock anglophiles from Sacramento who are all too familiar with the wily, pop-obsessed ways of the Buzzcocks' Pete Shelley and the Undertones' Feargal Sharkey, FM Knives deliver more than just Class of '77 revisionism. The band has a stranglehold on melody and delivers song after song of razor-lined punk with the kind of singsong approach to vocals that verges on power-pop, skinny-tie, early Joe Jackson territory. It's a combination that sounds familiar until you listen closely and realize that these colliding worlds are something musicians rarely succeed in traversing. It's hard to hit that mark of bratty, fists-out, amped-up rock while simultaneously cranking out hypermelodic, fairly lo-fi, perfect pop snippets.

This is all well and good, but you still might be wondering what the world needs with another punk-pop band that digs the best of the '70s UK punk scene (at least the pop part of it, anyway), no matter how good the group is. Fair enough, but FM Knives seem to stumble perfectly into that horizontal line of music history where the smile of harmony and bubblegum met the ax-wielding sneer of leather, studs, and acne, and everybody fell in love in the spittle-soaked bat caverns. You realize it when you hear it--this is a good place to be.

The group plays it simple, but with an attention to pop minutiae that can only come from being the most dedicated of music freaks. Every buzzing guitar fill, every heavy, Surfaris-esque drum roll, and every hiccupping vocal waver is arranged perfectly, creating a makeshift shrine of sorts paying tribute to the Adverts, the Revillos, and anyone else you can think of from the pogo school of '77. That they can do this all sans artifice, sans gimmick, through sheer songs alone is not only commendable, it's nearly unheard of these days. Tracks off the Knives' debut, Useless & Modern--like the jittery "16 D.O.A.," and slightly punched-up pub-rock of "The Man from O.S.I."--need to be heard on the portable hi-fi player at around 3:00 a.m. in order to appreciate their true immediacy and pop greatness.