31 KNOTS Five minutes after some punk-ass kid kicked over their sand castle. Jesse Durost

THE SINGER WORE his guitar smack dab in the middle of his chest; that's what I remember most. And the songs had a lotta changes. They were catchy, but it wasn't anything I hadn't heard before. That was back in 2001, at what was once the Meow Meow, that's now the Loveland. I checked back in with 31Knots a couple years later, after It Was High Time to Escape dropped, and was... into it, but forgot about them again shortly thereafter. 31Knots was always good, and I always heard updates from friends or read reviews in the press, but it never really stuck.

But while I was out—Rip Van Winkling my way through, I dunno, escapist hippie shit or ancient folk records or whatever—something funny happened; they got GOOD. The Talk Like Blood CD, which came out in October, shows the band's prog-rock experimentation suddenly fused with a natural sense of catchiness and pop, and the result is a big, stomping, shifting piece of immediacy, forward motion, and beautiful expansive vocals. (A nice, femme-y falsetto is industry standard for prog but 31Knots' singer Joe Haege slingshots all over the place—laying down big, sighing, tremulous quavers and gravely barks that smack your jaw like a frozen hockey puck; the man can sing.)

Still, it was their EP that came out in July, The Curse of the Longest Day, that drove all that growth and progression home. Coming across like a sober, no bullshit, baby brother to the last Mars Volta record, it is five tracks of realized perfection. Guitars scream like buttrock, then shutter, stop, and stretch out in moody, simmering, boiling, rainy-day expanses. And then—when you least expect it—they come on heavy again. The drums (Jay Pellicci) and bass (Jay Winebrenner) are almost robotic, and I wouldn't feel bad calling them that if they weren't so warm and human feeling. (Deerhoof's Greg Saunier helped mix and master the record, so everything—like all Deerhoof endeavors—is viciously alive sounding, no matter how technical it gets. Remember when we used to call this shit "math-rock"?)

But it was a rough go at first; the EP floated around for a long while without landing US distribution. It came out in Japan and Europe, but it sat forever before being picked up by Polyvinyl in the US. Which is to say, the fact that this shit wasn't tug-of-warred over right off the bat leads me to believe the world is going to end upon the gong strike of the new year and that the terrorists have won and that our heads are all so far up our asses we're seeing gray Pacific Northwest "sunshine" out our nostrils. BUT both records are in stores now, and this is good. And just as good is these guys are playing this New Year's Eve. It's been a damn long while, and I'm excited to check them out and welcome all that change and progression and evolution. Happy new year, boys.