You can’t categorize Kneebody, so don’t try. The leaderless quintet of keyboardist Adam Benjamin, trumpeter Shane Endsley, saxophonist Ben Wendel, electric bassist Kaveh Rastegar and drummer Nate Wood creates everything-is-welcome-here music that values the structure of pop, the thrum of rock and the feel-goodness of funk as much as the improvisation of jazz. The band’s fourth album, The Line, cements its disdain for boundary setting.
The album opens with a pulsating fuzz soon matched by a thick drumbeat, in much the same way a Radiohead record might begin. The tune “Lowell” coalesces around Endsley’s and Wendel’s sparse use of notes and respect for space, and it achieves its power via electric surges from keyboards and bass. “Cha-Cha,” which ain’t one, skips along with a fast, shuffling rhythm. “Trite” hangs on a frenetic hip-hop beat that keeps interrupting itself, purposefully damaging its time signature. “Sleeveless” and “Pushed Away” trick the listener, with their sleepy feels, into thinking they’re ballads; they’re much too dark and stark. Endsley and Wendel use their horns more for atmospherics—notes are sustained and repeated—than for traditional soloing; this is particularly evident on “What Was,” more of a vehicle for the rhythm section’s jamming.
The band betrays its arena-rock ambitions (or frustrations) on the title track and “Ready Set Go,” both of which cleverly use electric piano and synthesizer where a power-rock band would employ an electric guitar. (Thrashing on the keys, Benjamin is.) “Work Hard, Play Hard, Towel Hard” sounds like what would happen if Nine Inch Nails and one of Miles Davis’ mid-’70s bands got together to remake the Chariots of Fire theme, what with its constant rhythmic shifts, fierce electric propulsion and piercing horns. Aggressive, spontaneous, original and catchy, this one tune embodies the entire Kneebody spirit.