Originally meant to be the band’s debut album, the self-titled record was recorded with Bob Weston (of Shellac) in 1994 before being mysteriously shelved and thrust into a world of obscurity. Remastered from one of the bootleg cassettes copies that’s been floating around for over a decade, the album serves as a snapshot of the band just before releasing the experimental noise/sludge of their proper debut, My Love Is Higher Than Your Assessment of What My Love Could Be. Leaning more towards (relatively) straight-ahead sludge metal, the album feels like the band's later work (Special Wishes, Life...The Best Game in Town), with the emphasis more on the crushing guitars and Creston Spiers’ anguished vocals.
Return of a lost sludgepunk opus Among doom-metal bands, Harvey Milk is Squirrel Bait, the undersung journeymen revered by their peers and overlooked by the scene’s Sunday drivers. They were the first and scruffiest in an indie-metal lane now densely populated with enlightened plodders like Isis, Pelican, Torche and Kylesa. After breaking up in 1998 and reuniting in 2006, the band’s early years as mutant noisemakers in R.E.M.’s Athens were obscured, at least until now.
It would certainly be stretching a point to say that Harvey Milk emerged as the complete article, as they have improved in pretty much all departments over time – and that’s with an eight-year gap of inactivity in the middle. Yet Harvey Milk, the first properly-available release of the Athens, Georgia band’s debut album that never was, demonstrates that pretty much all the elements they were working with circa 2008 were also in place circa 1993. Screwed’n’chopped ZZ Top butt-rock; sarcastic reimaginings of Saint Vitus and their doom metal underlings; a touch of that macho-not-macho intellectual greasemonkey image that the Amphetamine Reptile label had a lock on at the time; songtitles used more from necessity than to convey an opinion.
Music fans love those rare recordings by their favorite artist, whether it’s an album that’s been long out of print (Neil Young’s Time Fades Away), never seen the light of day (Prince and the Revolution’s Dream Factory), or a supposed recording that’s achieved mythical status in the eyes of some collectors (Bruce Springsteen’s Electric Nebraska). Whether it’s the obsessive idea of being a “completist” or an interest in trying to further understand the musician’s art, searching out those rare recordings is a big part of the fun of being a music fan. Of course, it always helps when the artist relents and actually does put out the damn missing record, and that’s exactly what Georgia sludgemeisters Harvey Milk have done.