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Harvey Milk - The Kelly Sessions CD (album) cover


Harvey Milk


Experimental/Post Metal

4.00 | 1 ratings

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4 stars After releasing the different-as-night-n-day back to back albums "Courtesy and Goodwill Towards Men" and "The Pleaser" in the late 1990s, Harvey Milk disappeared for a while, presumably to go back to their day jobs and families. Their cult fan base was kind of left hanging; the band had not announced a breakup, but they didn't seem to be working on anything either. Until their return to action in 2006, things were eerily quiet in Milk Land, with the exception of two archival releases, one of which was The Kelly Sessions.

I'm not sure who Kelly is, but consider this release as the equivalent of a "Peel Sessions" album: alternate versions of studio tracks, some previously released in other versions, some songs otherwise unreleased, probably recorded around the same time as "Courtesy and Good Will Towards Men". In fact, this album makes a pretty good overview of the early Harvey Milk days, both in their very early Melvins/Jesus Lizard/Helmet mode and in their more mature, avant death-crawl mode. The recordings are all crystal clear and energetically performed, basically live but with some key overdubs filling out the sound.

The first track is a hidden track, 10 harrowing minutes of the "Courtesy and Good Will Towards Men" standout "My Broken Heart Will Never Mend", which can only be heard if you rewind the CD 10 minutes before track 1 starts. It's a perfect example of the "avant death-crawl" I referred to earlier. Track 1 proper gives us the early song "Dick Slater" (a song otherwise unreleased on any Harvey Milk album), which would have fit perfectly on Helmet's "Strap it On" album - midtempo stop-start tricky time signature riffing with gruffly shouted vocals. "Brown Water" is another alternate version of a "Courtesy...." song, just as long, slow, and painful as the hidden track was, but giving us a taste of the remarkable finesse of this band as well. Long sections of the song are incredibly quiet, with Creston Spiers' guitar and barely-sung vocals building tons of tension, which is then released in thick rivers of lava when the loud part comes in. "Plastic Eggs", also from "Courtesy....", makes an appearance here as well, though the opening guitars are strangely murky and not as effective as on other versions.

"Dating Pressures" is another very early track that was previously unreleased, although the 2010 release of the self-titled "Harvey Milk" album ended up containing this song too. It sounds a lot like the Jesus Lizard to me - a slow (but not too slow) steady drum beat with a descending note riff shared by the guitar and bass, with spoken/growled Spiers vocals. A good headbanger. "Blackbeard" and "Come and Spit" are two more songs you will only find here - slow, dissonant, and full of sludge.

The early arena-rock anthem "Anthem" closes the album with a rockist attitude. For some reason, this song never really did it for me. But wait -- then there's a short snippet of Creston's solo acoustic rendition of Leonard Cohen's "One of Us Cannot Be Wrong" (also on "Courtesy..."), one of Milk's most touching and vulnerable moments.

This album is a great addition to any fan's collection, and a fine snapshot of the band at their early peak. I'd choose this over the similar "Singles" archival release for its superior sound and song selection, but I'd probably recommend an official studio album or two before buying this. At the time of this writing, I believe it's out of print anyway. Long live Harvey Milk!

HolyMoly | 4/5 |


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