Turning away from his restless night sleep the child notices something, through his window. There is a man out there, standing in the street, rain dripping down from his brow, he licks his lips. His hands are bananas, he flashes bright colors. “Come to me” he whispers, the boy doesn’t know what to do, he whimpers, but smiles. Who could cry in the face of such a wonderful man? “I’ll take you to my dreamland” coos the figure, and the child begins up from his bed, making his way for the door. The figure is on his doorstep, looking as magnificent as ever. The creature puts his banana laden arms around the boy and embraces him. Something happens. The child calls out, but no one hears, and he’s whisked away into the darkness. The neighborhood is quiet and no one ever sees the child again.
This is the lure of the Milk Man, a wondrous creature straight out of indie rockers Deerhoof’s 2004 release of the same name. Much like Hayao Miyazaki’s epic Spirited Away, the progressive indie LP tells the tale of innocent children, brought into beautiful worlds beyond their control. The Milk Man is fabulously freaky CD, full of glitchy production, noisy, but soft and inviting guitars and disturbing lyrics of all forms. The record gives off feelings of loneliness, ecstasy and abandonment, making you lean back in wonder with a tear in your eye, much like Miyazaki’s anime masterpiece. Many of the songs, though tight and true seem like the kind of music that would be in the background as a film panned out across some great Chinese gully. The mysterious and depressing C is a wonderful, horrible representation of this. It features barley audible cries from lead songstress, Satomi Matsuzaki over sad and out of tune guitars. Satomi has a voice full of beauty beyond words, it’s so refreshing to hear, and yet it owes so much to other artists.
If I could compare Satomi to any other vocalists, I would say she reminds me most of Blonde Redhead’s Kazu Makino’s laid back coo, but she owes much more to the infamous 60’s trash girl group, The Shaggs. In fact, the whole band bites a little off the Shag’s sad, sad career. They use the awesomely bad tunings and chords, strange time signatures and slightly nonsense lyrics (even on high concept albums like this). Like the Shaggs, guitarist, John Dieterich plays things that don’t necessarily fit the song, or even the rhythm, but always makes them work with a shocking precision (or lack there of). Unlike The Shaggs though, Dieterich understands how important tone and atmosphere are to indie rock like this. Certain songs he will just let his distortion soaked guitar just wail out, in an almost Sonic Nurse era Sonic Youth fashion. And unlike both bands Milkman features Deerhoof using plenty of electronics in their music. Desaparaceré, a song sung entirely in Spanish, via Satomi’s dazed and distinctly Asian moan features an electronic drum beat and a cold and impending organ. Dog on the Sidewalk is done entirely with electronics as well, making for a very arrhythmic interlude.
Ballad time songs like Dream Wanderer’s Tune show the band at a prime stage of the game, transforming the band’s Noise Pop into dark and soulful indie rock. The bounces and glitches are still present, but the whole melody seems to fold into one living, breathing bit of noise. As I listen more deeply I find that the album does a lot of this, but it still, some how, remains fun and freaky. Milk Man is great indie rock/freak pop concept record and quite a refreshing listen for someone not familiar with the band’s later work. It definitely deserves a 4/5. The album closes with New Sneakers, a soaring track about the final demise of the Milk Man blending rock and shoegaze, a fitting end to any conceptual record.