The Knack – Normal as the Next Guy (2001; 2015 reissue)

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It wasn’t just that the Knack was cursed with a huge, career-opening albatross of a hit; it was that every time they tried to build off that legacy — every single time — something went wrong.

“Rocket O’ Love,” a 1991 single reached No. 9 on Billboard’s mainstream rock chart, but the Knack’s label failed to capitalize on it and Serious Fun became a dead end instead of a long-hoped-for comeback. Zoom, released in 1998, similarly went nowhere — despite the addition of ace drummer Terry Bozzio. Then there was 2001’s Normal as the Next Guy, the Knack’s final attempt, which saw their label go bust.

By 2010, singer-songwriter Doug Fieger was dead of cancer, leaving the Knack with a legacy that began and largely ended with summer-defining six-week run at No. 1 with 1979’s “My Sharona.”

Another opportunity to explore those lost moments arrives this week with the Omnivore reissue of Normal as the Next Guy, expanded now with three previously unheard Fieger songwriting demos. Bassist Prescott Niles helps untangle the Knack’s complicated story, one that became no less so with this concluding album.

Scattered amid the wreckage of their 1990s-era misfires, Normal as the Next Guy started out less as a final run up that Sisyphean hill than side project for Fieger. Niles and guitarist Berton Averre came in late to the project, adding some distinctively Knack-like touches to complete things — even as the trio stretched in surprising ways, since the material had not originally been created within the confines of their shared legacy.

And so, there are obvious tips of the hat to the Beatles (“It’s Not Me,” with its McCartney-inspired bass line), and a little of their old-school “Good Girls Don’t”-era misogyny (“Dance of Romance”). But also things that you’d never expect from the Knack, and that’s what gives Normal as the Next Guy its lasting cache.

You’ll find a touch of Americana in “Spiritual Pursuit,” a sad isolation — replacing the snitty attitude of old — working beneath the surface on “A World of My Own” and an intriguing trip through the narrative tangle of SMiLE-era Brian Wilson on “The Man on the Beach.”

The project, fitting for a pieced-together farewell, is rounded out with odds and ends from along the way — including the title track (originally for a late-’80s movie called Plain Clothes) and “One Day at a Time” (a hit-potential song inexplicably left off Serious Fun by a label exec). In total, it should have — once again — been more than enough to hot-wire another Knack era.

Alas, it was not to be, again. As the Knack gathered for a celebratory dinner after their album-preview showcase for Normal as the Next Guy in 1991, all eyes turned to the televisions surrounding them at the restaurant. The Gulf War had just begun.

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