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Animal Disco: We Are Knives @ McHughs, Belfast


When asked to pen this review, I told myself I would strive to be objective and immediate, looking at the event solidly from the perspective of a mid-2015 evening, but as I sit down to put words to paper, I realise that this is virtually impossible. I mean, come on, it’s been over 7 years years since we last heard that finger tapping rhythm – it’s safe to say we’ve sorely missed it.

So, where do we start? The obligatory history lesson, that;s where. Having risen some time in 2005 from the disbandment of classic Belfast acts Some Days Better and The Killing Spree, We Are Knives delivered a somewhat unique take on the US-born ‘Math-Rock’ genre, albeit via a healthy influence of Ian Williams-era Don Cab and Battles.

Without even realising it, they immediately stood out from the crowd, throwing down rhythmically explosive performances from the outset and generally giving a somewhat lacklustre Belfast music scene the proverbial kicking it needed. Put quite frankly: it was a sound we hadn’t heard here before.

Now we find ourselves in the present day, 2015, seven years since they all but disappeared. Don’t get me wrong: some follow up projects appeared (and went) but nothing ever really had that same impact or feeling, and maybe this is the reason we find ourselves staring at a ten year reunion show.


I’ll be honest, though: I’m not normally a big fan of the re-hash but this one feels different. Having announced the gig only weeks ago to minimal fan-fare this feels more like a completely guilt free nostalgia trip, one devoid of overly sentimental commentary or pointless drudgery – it’s three guys, with three instruments playing the noises we’ve been yearning to hear again for a while now – the noises that were quite frankly never properly replaced.

Since I’m being so honest, I’ll also admit to being a tad nervous about the whole thing; “Will any of this still feel relevant?” I found myself thinking as I watched a distinctly cagey looking Hornby (guitar/vocals, pictured above) pace around the stage checking his equipment. Looking at an empty McHugh’s basement at 11pm I also found myself wondering if this was going to be a classic Belfast wash-out.

My fears are shattered around midnight, though, as the opening licks of ‘005’ send the modest crowd into that all too familiar trance-like sway and after a few minutes, hearing a large proportion of the crowd instantly join Hornby in his first line of “I should cut out my tongue!”, the whole thing becomes quite hard to describe. To quote a certain Jake Chambers, if I can: “The ecstasy of perfect recognition”.

While they start a tad ‘loose’, as it were, the nerves soon settle and they find themselves falling back into the groove, as do the crowd, Steve (Anderson, bass) and Craig (Kearney, drums) expertly holding down the low end over Hornby’s lead  They comfortably deliver every track from their 2006 EP We Have Become Like Knives with a few others thrown in for good measure – tracks I’m not even sure I recognised.


Finishing with long-time set closer ‘002’, the sweaty crowd join Hornby in his anthemic cries of “We have Become Like Knives!” and looking around me, I’m seeing nearly all the smiling faces that I saw seven years ago, but more importantly, I’m seeing faces I don’t recognise which is actually more comforting than I thought it would be.

As the dust settles, I’m reminded of the fact that I haven’t been to a local gig that felt like this in years, which, I will say, is a statement that you take with a large pinch of salt as it does come from a 30 year old who’s barely been able to see ‘the loop’ for a while now.

It did feel different, though, and if it took a band from seven years ago to make us feel like that, then I’m not actually sure that it’s as comforting a feeling as I first thought it was.

Pointless nostalgia aside, We Are Knives completely killed it and I am left wondering if we’ll ever see them again. It sure felt like unfinished business to me. Matt Hazley

Photos by Kiran Archaya.