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Harvey Milk - Special Wishes CD (album) cover


Harvey Milk

Experimental/Post Metal

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3 stars After a seven year silence, Harvey Milk returned out of nowhere in 2006 with Special Wishes, their fourth album. Considering that their last two albums before the hiatus were about as dissimilar as they could possibly be (the avant-chamber-noise of Courtesy and Good Will Towards Men and the Southern fried hard rock orthodoxy of The Pleaser), it must have been difficult to imagine what the Milk would look like this time.

This time around, Harvey Milk leans a little closer to the accessible side of their sound, though they do keep things heavy and serious, as opposed to the more rockin' fun stuff on The Pleaser. Wanting to further develop their unique identity as sketched out on their first two albums, but wanting to avoid dwelling too deep in the avant garde, they split the difference, offering some more "difficult" tracks and some more "accessible" tracks.

In the case of this album, the band makes a stronger impact with the "difficult" songs -- the album begins with two of them: the career highlight "I've Got a Love" is stark, primal, and features one of Creston Spiers' best vocal performances, angry and desperate, expertly controlled. "War" follows with a marital beat, an interesting structure, and a similarly grim mood.

After that, things are kind of hit and miss. "Crush Them All" goes on a bit too long without much variation; it reminds me of an average early Soundgarden song. "Once in a While" is a bit rough on the melodic vocals, weakening the song. "Instrumental" puts the balance right, revisiting their fast-riffing-in-odd-meters kind of numbers they made their mark with in the early days. "The End" is pretty good but the chorus feels a bit stale. "Old Glory" is the most successful of the "accessible" rockers, a fierce anthem that both criticizes and pays tribute to The South - very powerful, very moving, a definite highlight. Things close out with the 8 minute "Mother's Day" a powerful but ultimately confusing ballad featuring violin. Promising, but not quite the big finish I hoped for.

In all, the album shows the band progressing, beginning a new phase of their career, but it ultimately falls short on about half the songs. Still, gripes aside, this is a good album from a great band, and has at least two undeniable classics in "I've Got a Love" and "Old Glory".

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Posted Thursday, May 31, 2012 | Review Permalink

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