"First Things First" (Zen Records; 1999)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

Regular readers of Rough Edge will know that I've called The Knack my "guilty pleasure" in past reviews. I've always enjoyed the band's work, from their mega-pop hits ("My Sharona") to their lesser known art rock (the "Zoom" album). There was always so much about the band that was fun and energizing! Sadly, not enough listeners agreed with me and The Knack all but faded from the face of the earth. Then, when vocalist/songwriter Doug Fieger died of cancer in 2010, I knew The Knack was over.

Which is why I was so glad to learn about Fieger's 1999 solo album, "First Things First." I was apparently unaware of it upon its initial release, and I'm really not too sure how it actually got into my mailbox after all these years or what it's status is today (you can buy a CD-R copy or an MP3 download from Amazon at the links above). But I'm happy to report that it's just the CD you'd expect from Mr. Fieger: lively, fun and smart from beginning to end.

For the most part, the music has that bouncy, dynamic style The Knack did so well. It's never as, well ... full as most of The Knack's stuff is and it often plays a little like The Knack Unplugged. That being said, there are jaunty rockers ("Shake Me," "Ambition," "Praying for You"), insightful ballads ("Wishing Doesn't Make It So," "She Says"), even a country tune, "Without You," which sounds more than a little like Roy Orbison. And the soulful, genuine cover of "Love Hurts" is utterly mesmerizing. The original lyrics, as always, are intelligent and keen and, although there's that little Knack smirk here and there, for the most part, the lyrics on "First Things First" seem more open and honest.

Fans of The Knack's "phony Beatlemania" days will find at least a track or two to grab onto here but those who stuck with the band throughout their entire career will find this album essential. It's an insightful look into the mind of the late Doug Fieger and, for the most part, it's utterly fascinating ... and entertaining.

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Rating Guide:

A classic. This record will kick your ass.

Killer. Not a classic but it will rock your world.

So-so. You've heard better.

Pretty bad. Might make a nice coaster.

Self explanatory. Just the sight of the cover makes you wanna hurl.


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Copyright 2011 by R. Scott Bolton. All rights reserved.
Revised: 13 May 2024 14:45:22 -0400 .