Sunday, September 11, 2022

The Milk Men - Spin The Bottle

Titling their latest album Spin The Bottle doesn’t just seem like another pun from The Milk Men, whose previous outing was Deliverance.  It could be a metaphor for the variety of styles they cover here, like a spinning bottle has directed them to turn out songs in different genres.
They rev up with ‘Driving It’, its intro featuring slamming, AC/DC-like chords against a backdrop of zooming F1 engines, before it hurtles off the starting grid into a fast-paced, zinging boogie, taking a Quo-like chug and cranking it up into the red zone, then adding a bundle of precision-tooled guitar twists and turns to grab your attention.
Hard rock may be their homeland, but they take it in different directions, with mixed results.  
The sharpest dressed Milk Men you're ever likely to meet
Pic by Rob Blackham
‘Adelaide’ sounds like The Who in restrained mode, with its ringing acoustic guitar chords from Adam Norsworthy and twanging bass from Lloyd Green – and Jamie Smy’s voice has more than a whiff of Daltrey.  But while the verses are interesting, the chorus is “meh” by comparison.  And the swaying ‘How Do You Think I Feel?’ heads further into common-or-garden AOR territory, in spite of a tasteful guitar line that evolves into a nifty interwoven ending.
Happily though, other excursions are much more convincing.  ‘Go Go Baby’ sounds like post-Feelgood rivvum’b’blues’n’rock’n’roll given a modern sheen, and pulls you in with its shoutalong chorus.  There’s a sizzling, harmonised solo from Norsworthy, and a key change into a turbo-charged ending.  All of which is a good warm-up for the later ‘Gabba Gabba Hey’, a tribute to The Ramones written by long-time fan Lloyd Green. Mind you, it sounds nothing like the blitzkrieg boppers, and rather more like glam rock rebels Mott the Hoople, with suitably stomping drums from Mike Roberts.  But it’s a great little tune and infectiously good fun, and they follow it up with the simple but effective ‘Fabulous’.  Again it’s redolent of the glam rock era, this time in the mode of something from the hit-making production line of Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman, hammering home a catchy chorus, some witty Elvis “Uh-huh-huh” asides, and rattling one-chord piano.
But they also hit the mark in more sophisticated settings, such as the modern slow blues of, er, ‘Sing The Blues’, which becomes smoothly romantic in a manner that suits the softer side of Smy’s voice, backed up by some soulful playing from Norsworthy that culminates in a closing solo – or one might say duo, because he likes an overdub, does Norsworthy – that’s full of feeling.  On the closing ‘Bad Seed’, contrastingly, they head off into widescreen epic territory redolent of Wishbone Ash, with higher pitched vocals and harmonies played off against an edgy, spiralling riff, with some sweeps of organ from guesting James Welch.
On both these tracks, and indeed throughout, Roberts’ drumming is unshowy but always on the money, while the bass playing of Lloyd Green is genuinely ear-catching, supple and melodic in its own right, as well as complementary to Norsworthy’s guitar.  Rightly, it’s given space to shine in the production by Norsworthy and Wayne Proctor.
There are a couple of sturdier rockers in the form of ‘Cheap Seats’ and ‘Highway Woman’ that are good in parts, with a stuttering riff and electric piano colourings carrying the former, while a gritty, Purple-ish riff drives the latter, enlivened by some polished harmonies, swirls of Welch’s organ, and a wah-wah contorted squealer of a solo from Norsworthy, though lyrically the chorus is in cliché corner.
Variety is normally the spice of my listening life, but stylistically The Milk Men sometimes stretch themselves a bit thin - a bit more focus wouldn’t go amiss.  But still, the more I listened to Spin The Bottle, the more I enjoyed it.  Gabba gabba hey, guys!
Spin The Bottle is out now, and can be ordered here.

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