Review Summary: waiting on my death
Harvey Milk’s blend of sludge metal, hard rock, and other disparate influences such as Leonard Cohen and classical music has always sat them head and shoulders creatively above other bands of their ilk. That includes the Melvins and other mediocre burly stone metal bands like Torche and Big Business, whose works each seem a little bland in comparison to Milk classics such as Courtesy and Good Will to Men
. However, after two genre-shifting albums, this Georgia trio decided to make a sharp left turn with their music, resulting in the most aesthetically pleasing album this band has ever made. It’s no coincidence that this is named The Pleaser
Taking more influence from bands like ZZ Top than ever before, The Pleaser
is basically a skewed radio-rock album, featuring monster riffs and gigantic choruses and catchy melodies like you’d find on a Thin Lizzy or a Kiss album. But the album also contains the irreverent and self-aware humor typical of this band and vocalist Creston Spiers certainly doesn’t tone down his wild singing either. The Pleaser
also contains some of the slower, sludgy songs that their first two albums contained, but they’re without the experimentation and contain less of the awkward pauses and droning repetition of those aforementioned works. This quick change in styles--this and Courtesy
were released in the same year--might have brought upon some of the dip in quality that occurs here, as some of The Pleaser
pales in comparison to other Milk works. But there’s still plenty to enjoy.
The fast paced songs on The Pleaser
tend to be a mixed batch. “Rock and Roll Party Tonite” is the highlight, being a four-minute bruiser propelled by whiskey-soaked riffs and Spiers’s seemingly drunk singing, resulting in the perfect song to drink to with your friends till you’re shi
t-faced. It’s also is the band’s most straightforward Kiss reference: this track’s obvious similarity with “Rock and Roll All Nite” is certainly no coincidence. On the other side of the quality spectrum, however, is a track like “U.S. Force”. Spiers’s singing has never been something you’d call pretty, however, on “U.S. Force”, he manages to sound grating for the possibly the first and only time of his career, utilizing the lower registers of his vocals way too much for comfort. The song also happens to be a little on the bland side instrumentally. The tongue-in-cheek lyrics, which actually reference the unstoppable force of the United States, are just good enough to save the song from being complete and total sh
it. Other balls-out, drunk-as-shi
t rockers such as “What I Want” and “Down” don’t warrant any negatives, but they don’t warrant any positives either. They’re nice as a homage to the more rocking influences of Courtesy
’s and My Love
’s sound, but that doesn’t keep them from being unmemorable and bland.
There aren’t a lot of slower tracks on The Pleaser
, but this album shows the band experimenting with mid-tempo rhythms more than their previous works along with these faster tracks. Perhaps due to the band’s accomplished slower and sludgier sound on other albums, these mid-tempo songs manage to be the standouts of the bunch. “Red as the Day is Long”, in particular, is a five-minute stunner that belongs in the canon of Spiers’s most memorable performances. Successfully mixing the right amounts of anguish, irreverence, and phlegm, Spiers navigates the song’s switch from bus-to- face-smashing doom/sludge to more quiet domains with the air of an expert. A wasted expert, of course. “Lay My Head Down” also stands out above the mucky muck, due to being a more subdued example of Spiers’s badas
s vocals and his impressive guitar leads, and also being the longest song on The Pleaser
, at eight minutes, for a band that once cranked out ten minute crushers with ease. “Lay My Head Down” also features a monster transition from this more subdued state to straight-up arena-rock riffing, which is both unexpected and awesome. This track, more than any other one found on The Pleaser
, is a indication of what would appear on future albums: always heavy and manly, but with ample amounts of melody, creativity, and just some goddamn fun.
Fun was something previous Milk albums lacked a bit. They were about as serious lyric-wise as this record (i.e. not very), but they didn’t feel as such. The Pleaser
shows Harvey Milk loosening up a bit, downing a few pints, and playing their fuc
es off. Sure, much of this album is a bit too customary, but there’s enough awesome here to outweigh the bad. Be sure to buy a 24-pack and scream along.