06 July, 2013

The Life and Times of Harvey Milk (The Band), Episode 4: Special Wishes

A Sound Design and Assembly Original Miniseries
Produced by M. Martin
Tonight: 2006's Special Wishes
Written by Charlie Pauken
OK OK OK, I know I make this joke a lot but seriously, if you do not love this record, you and I seriously, and I'm serious, now, for real, you and I seriously have to reconsider our friendship.
There are very few records in the universe that could be considered perfect to my ears. Marquee Moon, Entertainment!, Pink Flag, Ace of Spades, Mclusky Do Dallas, and in that group belongs Special Wishes.
It's more than a mere metal record, it is Harvey Milk's magnum opus.
It begins with the slower than molasses in January dirge, "I've Got a Love", and you'll know the name of the song because Creston belts out those words at the very opening in that unearthly howl of his: "I've got a love, hot-rod ride, push-button start and five wheel drive." And from there, the pastiche of imagery he conjures may as well be a slow summation of Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!; the lyrics are almost comically masculine and sexy and the music is the sound of a werewolf being birthed; to make another movie reference, the loud, ascending movement in the song could easily be laid over the top of the initial transformation scene from An American Werewolf In London. Basically, folks, if you want to fuck slowly and deliberately on shrooms, this is the song you put on a loop; if you want to feel the force of your chi push out through your ribs, this is the soundtrack.
These are your oats, horsey, and it's only the first song.
"War" follows "I've Got a Love" with a threatening march that transfers to a lurching herky-jerky dizzying piece of drop-dead tight heavy metal that, while not complex or complicated, would probably throw even the cantankerous Zappa for a loop.
Yeah. That's right. I said it. Zappa. What? Show me "the black page". Get at me, you fuck.
"War" is the exactly the kind of mid-tempo metal Melvins wished that they could have perfected on Stoner Witch.
"Crush Them All" is the blues but the special kind of blues that sucks the breath from your lungs with its minimalism. "Crush Them All" is the sound of seeing all those empty bottles of Cutty Sark laying on their sides next to over-stuffed ashtrays and unopened condom packs in the morning and regret settling in. The lyrics here play on old sayings with lines like "curiosity aint what's killing me" and so on. A little more of a taste?
And wouldn't you agree about that famous tree?
If no one was around it didn't fall at all.
I couldn't even care if someone had been there.
When it fell and crushed them all down.
Jesus wept, man. Those are a thing of beauty. Especially when the back drop is that slow pummeling from Tanner's descending bass line, rich with low end and Creston's guitar set to the sound of a goddamned circular saw and new drummer Kyle Spence's unrelenting crash cymbal bashing. For real, this song will fuck up your whole universe. Like the rest of the record, it's a chemical peel for your ears. This number should send you into slowmotion epileptic convulsions.
"Once In a While" is a gentle, introspective respite from the heaviness with what sounds like a piano low in the mix but that could be my untrustworthy ears pulling a trick on me. It's a ballad with an easy one two three four ascending melody line. After all of the violence and suffocation of the first three songs, there's a reassurance in being told "everything will be alright".
"Instrumental" is an instrumental. Well, not really. It's industrial strength paint stripper. It's a fucking power-washer. You could hose down a sweaty elephant with "Instrumental". I mean, really, this thing will just slash through all of your preconceived notions of what constitutes an instrumental. It's a piece that doesn't need words and one of the number in Harvey Milk's canon that displays not merely the competency of the musicians in this band but the prowess and thoughtfulness and dexterity. You wish your band was this good. I wish my band was this good. Ferfucksake, man.
"The End"? Get the fuck out of here with "The End". "You say your life's been unkind, sounds a lot like mine", is the opening line and if you ever had a problem with Creston's voice, you need to listen to this. Through all of the heaviness of the song, juxtaposed with gentle chiming guitars, Creston is singing in a mellifluous voice he hasn't previously used and then harmonizing with himself in the overdubs with intervals reminiscent of the Beatles. You know the Beatles. They're that band that everybody seems to really like. I presume that even the most slavish devotee to Lennon/McCartney would have to admit that there's a bit of White Album in those harmonies. And it's precisely this exploration of vocal layering that would go on to inform the intro to "Death Goes to the Winner" on 2008's Life... The Best Game in Town. Couple this with flourishes of electric piano and you've got nothing but the most succinct amalgamation of Beatles-minded composition and metal ever since some jag-off critic announced that Superunknown was a Black Sabbath record written by the Beatles.
Oh, shit, son. Get ready for "Love Swing". You should look at your list of life goals and crumble it up and throw it in the fucking compost heap because your new life goal from here on out is to fuck to "Love Swing". To break with being so phallic-minded, may I address the ladies?
Ladies, may I implore you? The next time you find yourself the proud queen of conquest, put on "Love Swing". Celebrate yourself. Mount that hot twenty year old stud, blow his mind through the back of his skull and into the neighbor's dining room. Make that young'un beg for more. Wreck him. Give him scoliosis. Make him walk home with a damned limp and red marks on his neck. Ladies, this song belongs on your "Fuck Jams" mix tape if you haven't put it on there already.
Everything on this record sounds like ascension. Everything on this record sounds like rising. Spiritual separation from the corporeal vessel. Ecstasy. Many records seek to attain this emotive response and only few can pull it off. I've listed the few that do it to me above, I probably left a few out, but, for sure, this record does precisely that.
"Old Glory" is a nice little piece of patriotism without being nationalist, enough to make me not want to move to Canada. Well, maybe not enough to make me not want to move to Canada. There's certainly a Friday Night Lights vibe going on here but what can you do? It's still a fun romp, really, and the finger work on the guitar is impressive with a nice little flourish of arena cock-rock coming from both speakers. It really is the one song on the record that makes me uncomfortable but that's because I'm a stinking pinko. So if you watch FOX News and believe any word out of their talking heads, well, A) you and I won't see eye to eye on this record and B) I'm not sure that I can talk to you anymore. I've got a cousin that watches FOX News. I don't ever talk to him. It's like that. But I'm not getting a Rupert Murdoch vibe from this song; it's a song about being proud of your country and fighting wrongs and striving to find a justification behind empty symbolism that any nutter in the tea party could misinterpret, sure, and listening to this song won't make you more forgiving of the Democratic party's move to centro-conservatism but it might make you think a little, I guess.
Whatever. Fuck it. We're not here to discuss politics. I'm just trying to write a goddamned record review that only three people will read. One of whom has not been writing a damned thing during this car wreck, M. I'm actually writing this on a dying computer that I have to replace soon. The exhaust fan has died and now I have about twenty minutes at a time to write before the fucking thing overheats.
So, M., really, can you pick up some of my slack next weekend? Just until the new laptop arrives. Otherwise, our readers will get bullshit reviews like this. And, you know, this whole thing was your idea. I'm not trying to be pissy, but this is the fifth time I've opened the computer and I got this other shit to deal with on top of a busted laptop.
Why do I get the feeling that I'm totally Prindling this review?
I mean, cripes, this is one of the best records ever recorded and now I'm totally biffing it.
So thank the sweet baby Jesus that this is the last song, "Mother's Day". It begins with organ and violin in a composition that should be a traditional piece. It really should.
And, mon petit illiterati, if you want to do your mamas proud, kindly raise your drink with this song at maximum volume. Prost, skoll, and slainte to the woman who let her vagina get ripped up into a Freddy Krueger face so that you could suck air, you ingrate. Maybe your mother doesn't dig metal, maybe your mother doesn't dig opera (yes, this song is operatic, just a heads up), maybe your mother doesn't understand half the weirdo shit you get yourself into but, hey, I got lucky. My mom is cool as fuck. She got me Big Black's Songs About Fucking one Xmas when I was sixteen and the Jesus Lizard's Liar the next when I was seventeen (or maybe it was Scratch Acid's Greatest Gift). She understands that intent overrides presentation. So I send her this song on Mother's Day, she tells me it sounds like "Bohemian Rhapsody". It doesn't, but at least she appreciates it. She shakes her ass to Queens of the Stone Age, she don't give a fuck. She put up with a whole fuck ton of noise from some little rotten bastard kid's bedroom for eons and then just supplied him with more noise. So if you have a mom who is cool as fuck, this is the song you send her. If your mom isn't cool, I can't help you. Maybe, you know, pick up a card at the pharmacy, put a gift card to Denny's in it. All I'm saying is that if your mom is cool as fuck, you send her this song on Mother's Day, let her know that it was cool as shit that she let you suck air, let her know that it was cool as shit that she encouraged all - OK, maybe only a few - of your half-brained schemes at finding your identity.
And if she can't get down with this song, then you two seriously need to reevaluate your relationship.
Long and short of it? This record is the best record in the world and anybody who tells me otherwise is just plain goddamned wrong.
I'm also kind of drunk right now because I've had to write this post in installments on a busted laptop.
You know what? Fuck you. Some kind soul has put the whole thing on YouTube. Consider your next forty five minutes are accounted for, you damnable twat.
Feel it.
Next time on "The Life and Times of Harvey Milk (The Band)...
Either M. Martin will pick up some slack or 2008's Life... The Best Game in Town

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