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.
Cruise Your Illusion leads off with “Caged Dogs Run Wild,” a country-tinged instrumental ballad that evokes the gritty but emotionally outspoken foundation of the album. On “Illegal And Free,” singer and guitarist Alex Coxen puts words to that grit, crying out, “Don’t fuck with me, man, I’m illegal and free.” Like Beyond Living, it’s these unhinged, visceral vocals that truly catch your attention and reveal the raw energy achieved through the band recording live on four-tracks of half-inch tape. The free form of that process also carries into the lyrics which are rooted in uninhibited liberty, as evidenced by song titles covered with thoughts of wild feelings, freedom, wandering, cruising and running away.
The riff on “New Lease On Love” sounds like it could have come straight off Daydream Nation, and the guitar work steals the spotlight again with buzzing licks and scrappy solos on “Cruising With Gold, as Coxen sneers, “Welcome to the real fucking war, brother!” “Crosstown Wanderer” better resembles the funky six-string prowess of D. Boon and succinctness of Double Nickels On The Dime. Cruising further benefits from a well-paced layout, mixing in the gentler and blissful “Lacey’s Secret” and venturing into mystifying territories with tracks like “Dogchild” and bluesy, long-form closer “The Final Scene.”
And yes, it is often the reference points that stick out. But the truth is that as indebted as Milk Music is to its forefathers, the band still writes impressive, howling rock songs that carry the torch of a tradition without coming off as an imitation. Coxen’s vocals and distorted drones from fellow guitarist Charles Warring, the thick, driving bass of Dave Harris and heavy drumming from Coxen’s brother Joe Rutter have combined to create their own identifiable sound. A band’s output is a direct reflection of what the members listen to, and it is possible that Milk Music’s biggest flaw is being forthright about what that is.