Release Date: Apr 2, 2013
Record label: Fat Possum
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Rock, Noise-Rock, Punk Revival
Ever since I picked up on the first tremors from Milk Music around 6 months ago now, I’ve been anticipating their debut full length perhaps more than any debut album than I can remember, and it’s no wonder they’ve managed to stay away from so many radars. Their lack of online presence is typical of the image that the band is so proud to uphold. Both Wikipedia and Spotify were very slow on the uptake, only managing to prove a source of their fruits within the last week or so.
The members of Milk Music are old souls. That fact has come out in interviews, and it definitely comes through in their music. Vocalist-guitarist Alex Coxen says he doesn’t even own a computer; neither does guitarist Charles Waring. They’re not trapped in a time warp, but they do occasionally pine for the days when music scenes were championed and making a record was a warts-and-all affair.
I first have to confess that I think Milk Music’s debut 12-inch, Beyond Living, was the best rock record of 2010 but, significantly, also the best rock record I didn’t hear in 2010. Why attach such importance to the negative space of an aural absence? Because when I first heard the trio play in the summer of 2011, the experience was, without hyperbole, something of a revelation. Long hair, real fucking riffs, guitar solos at a hardcore show: I was converted.
All output from Olympia, Washington nostalgia-punk quartet Milk Music before their full-length Cruise Your Illusion pointed pretty directly to the influence of SST record's roster of late-'80s and early-'90s guitar-centric post-punk bands. The angular ruggedness barely concealing pop cores recalled Hüsker Dü, the stripped-down production aesthetic hinted at the economical approach of the Minutemen, and just about everything else echoed resoundingly of Dinosaur Jr. With this 12-song debut, the band keep their backward-looking esthetic but also manage to deliver a sound that's developed past its immediately recognizable influences.
A great deal of heart has been put into the music scene of Olympia, WA. Modest Mouse's debut, This is a Long Drive for Someone with Nothing to Think About, was recorded in the city. Kurt Cobain wrote Nevermind while living there. Over the last few decades, the development of such a prolific and influential music scene in a city with a population just shy of 50,000 suggests that Olympia is a place for musicians who care deeply about music.
Too straight for hippies. Too far-out for punk. We're like the ultimate outsiders, Alex Coxen told this website in the fall of 2011. That is not just a stoned interview quip from the frontman of Milk Music, but rather a whole estranged state of artistic mind. These guys honed theirs at home in ….
As policy U-turns go, Milk Music’s debut doesn’t quite match Liberal Democrat levels of sellout. The keen-eyed will notice that ‘Cruise Your Illusion’ is being released by Fat Possum, a Mississippi indie label best known for foisting The Black Keys on the world. This runs counter to the Olympia band’s previous insistence that they’re capable of fending for themselves without the help of record industry vultures.
As far as influences go, Milk Music plays by the book. Two parts punk rock cantankerousness and one part guitar rock fanaticism, the Olympia slack rockers fit the profile of a Washington act lock and key. But the band has always forcefully pushed back against the Neil Young and grunge comparisons that tend to get hurled its way by critics. They haven’t minced words about a distaste for being painted in such broad strokes, but Cruise Your Illusion, Milk Music’s debut full-length, validates the music literati trying to tuck them away in their dingy musical corner.
In the 90s, Olympia was a hotbed of DIY punk rebellion, creativity and action. Riot grrrl bands Heavens To Betsy, The Frumpies and Bikini Kill – among many more - all formed in the city at the start of the decade. It was the heart of the queercore scene and the place where Kurt Cobain penned the majority of Nevermind. Everyone's favourite love-to-hate foghorn Courtney Love sang about the city on Hole's seminal 1994 album Live Through This and of course, it is home to K Records, from which came the six-day International Pop Underground Convention.
Olympia, WA’s Milk Music has not been shy about sharing its influences or recognizing its fitting resemblance to the music that’s notably come out of the Pacific Northwest. The noisy, shredding guitars, cracked melodic vocals and rugged aesthetic all pay proper homage to the Seattle grunge bands of the early ’90s but also, as often noted, carry the guitar-centric edge of the mid-’80s second wave SST bands such as the Meat Puppets, Hüsker Dü and Dinosaur Jr. On their full-length debut, Milk Music keeps those influences intact with raw, warm sludgy rock that brings them out of the fuzzy shell of 2010’s Beyond Living EP helping to secure a unique personal identity that respectfully builds on a classic sound.