Los Angeles ska-punk band Goldfinger will forever hold a dear place in my heart. They were among the earliest “punk” bands to cross my radar back in my teens, and served the role as a gateway to the genre at large. I can’t count the number of times I listened to “Superman” or their iconic cover of “99 Red Balloons,” amongst other hits from their 90’s catalogue. As the years went on, Goldfinger released a series of newer albums, but they always seemed to reflect some artificial “need” for the band to have a “harder” sound.
That all changed when they joined SideOneDummy Records and released their back to basics album Hello Destiny. Had that comeback effort marked their swan song, it would have been a fine note to go out on. Instead, the band seemingly faded into hiatus mode. Nine long years later and the band has resurfaced in a new home on Rise Records for the release of their latest comeback album, The Knife. The result captures the familiarity of a greatest hits compilation but features thirteen brand new buoyant ska and punk infused songs.
The album rattles open on the strength of “A Million Miles,” setting a nostalgic tone both lyrically and aurally. The track opens with an old-school melody harkening back to a time when No Use For A Name dominated SoCal mixtapes. “Where did my life go!” questions sole original member and front man John Feldmann, backed by a salvo of melodic “woah-oah” supported gang vocals and steady rhythmic drumming provided by Blink 182’s Travis Barker. It’s an iconic flavour that goes hand in hand with the Goldfinger lineage, made all the more distinct by the energetic upstroke and horn blasts of following track, ”Get What I Need” (which even goes as far as to feature ex-Mighty Mighty Bosstones guitarist Nate Albert). By the time “Am I Deaf” rolls around, all the lyrics about life’s steady march start adding up as Feldmann comments on his disconnection from the current punk scene: “sometimes I feel so old, yeah, am I deaf, or just a little miffed about what they listen to today,” later referencing legacy acts like “The Who, Black Flag, Dead Kennedys,” before questioning “does anyone have something left to day?” Considering that MxPx frontman Mike Herrera serves as bassist on the album, it wouldn’t be a stretch to assume that this is a shared sentiment amongst band members. Stylistically similar highlights include “Who’s Laughing Now,” “Say It Out Loud” and “Beacon.”
The band offers up particular care for the handful of ska and reggae centric tracks punctuating the album. “Tijuana Sunrise” serves as the first big nod to Goldfinger’s ska leanings. Slowing the tempo and upstroke right down to a sauntering crawl, with horns ushering in a sunny day beach bum slow burner. “Don’t Let Me Go” follows a similar formula, offering up alternate vocals for a more raggae-infused, tropical atmosphere, while “Liftoff” provides a catchy hybrid of styles. Ska and reggae have never been Goldfinger‘s central focus, but they never fail to offer up a little “skip” in the band’s upbeat step.
And of course it wouldn’t be a Goldfinger album without at least a couple love letter-esque numbers peppered throughout. These mostly surface during the disc’s back half and include the name referencing “Milla” and a witty tale of an oral hygiene crush, “Orthodontist Girl.” While more enjoyable than filler, they’re typically less remarkable than the flagship standouts.
It’s been a while since Goldfinger has been a fixture in my listening habits, but with a fresh batch of upbeat tunes and the heat of summer well underway, The Knife feels ready to slice its way right on to my plate. Goldfinger serve up an easy reminder as to their early popularity, and provide an appealing point of entry for the new generation typically associated with the band’s Rise Records home.