CD Review: The Knack - Normal As The Next Guy

The Knack's final studio album, remastered with bonus tracks.
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When The Knack released 1998's Zoom, it was a critical success even if its sales did not match. Undeterred, the band continued to play live shows, though without a follow-up release. After finding a new manager in Jake Hooker (who co-wrote "I Love Rock 'n Roll," later made famous by Joan Jett), the band was to take part in a tour called "The Rock 'n' Roll Fun House." A DVD was filmed, which was made to look like an old 1960s TV show and the band were set to hit the road. The only problem was they didn't have a new album to promote.

Singer/rhythm guitarist Doug Fieger had turned his attention to a side project called Trip, which featured his songs and a different singer. A few of those songs got repurposed as Knack tunes here. A couple older songs were resurrected for this project, including Serious Fun's "One Day At A Time" and the title track, which was originally included in the 1988 movie Plain Clothes. Add to that some new songs written by Fieger and lead guitarist Berton Averre, as well as an old Douglust track and there was enough material for a new album, Normal As The Next Guy. While the album was somewhat ignored upon its initial release in 2001, it has been reissued and remastered with three bonus tracks.

Acoustic guitars and accordions give a French café feel to opening track, "Les Girls," a breezy ode to Fieger's favorite subject matter. While the song was a Trip demo, its 60s bridge and rock guitars in the chorus give this song a true Knack feel and it would not be out of place on the eclectic Round Trip. "Disillusion Town" is classic Fieger/Averre with its Beatles circa '66 guitars and melodic vocals.

Few rock singers expressed longing in their songs better than Fieger. This is evident on "Girl I Never Lied To You," a mid-tempo ballad with a killer lead vocal. Written by Monty Byrom and Fieger's ex-Sky band mate, John Corey, the song still sounds as if it could be a Fieger/Averre original. The title track is a fun, funk-oriented track that showcases the Fieger/Averre sense of humor with lyrics such as "I'm normal as the Wright brothers. I'm normal as Dr. Joyce Brothers."

"It's Not Me," one of three tracks co-written by Fieger and John Bossman, is vintage Knack meets The Byrds. It's jangly guitars and big vocals but with a high-energy beat. The song is power pop at its finest. "Dance Of Romance" is a rewrite of an old Douglust (pre-Knack Fieger/Averre project) song "Midnight Misogynist." The song shows the pair could still write a naughty song ala Get The Knack when the mood hit them and is another track with its jazzy feel and killer lead work from Averre that could easily fit on Round Trip.

The album finishes with "The Man On The Beach," an ode to Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys penned by Averre. Fieger does his best falsetto impression of Wilson and the group offers killer harmonies. The song recalls "Surf's Up" Beach Boys and, while a departure for The Knack, is a great way to end the original album. Sadly this would prove to be the last album of new Knack material as Fieger passed away in 2010.

The rerelease includes three bonus tracks, demos of "Seven Days Of Heaven," "Spiritual Pursuit" and "Reason To Live." All three are just Fieger and an acoustic guitar, showcasing his unique voice and reminding listeners he was gone too soon.

Normal As The Next Guy was overlooked upon its release but is filled with all the things that made The Knack great: Strong vocals, hooks galore and great musicianship. The remastered rerelease of this album will hopefully give it the chance it deserves among power pop fans.