03 August, 2013

The Life and Times of Harvey Milk (The Band), Episode 7: A Small Turn of Human Kindness

A Sound Design and Assembly Original Miniseries
Produced by M. Martin
Tonight: 2010's A Small Turn of Human Kindness
Written by Charlie Pauken
Well, M. was supposed to handle this one last week (which I figure you noticed by now is missing) so I suppose it's up to me to take on the final entry.
A Small Turn of Human Kindness was, for me, perhaps the least accessible, most difficult record in the Harvey Milk catalog. It's a concept record with a vague story that lets you think you've figured it out and then you notice something else in the lyrics that makes you go "Wait... Wha?", it's slower than anything on earth, all of the songs share a motif (hell, the songs on Side A all share the line "I am sick of all this, too", which happens to be the title of and only line in the third song), and it irks you with the substantial amount of just quiet rather than try to beat you over the head with deafening chaos. It's a tremendously suffocating venture that, I gotta tell you, bums me the fuck out when it doesn't make me check over my shoulder for somebody about to garrote me after double checking the lock on the door.
Only two moments during the Side A closer, "I Know This Is No Place For You", approaches any sort of bombast or grandeur found on previous records but that those two moments are mired in and surrounded by the sonic incarnation of fear and loss and pain and sadness doesn't change the tonality of the song. "I Know This Is All My Fault" also changes things around with a bit of Twin Peaks-ish synth sounds and then some minimalist piano and voice arrangement but its still a fucking bummer.
Whatever this record is about, it's certainly about some sort of tragedy, and the ending is so vague that the two outcomes I can think of are just "still bad" and "worse". I can tell you this much: There is a man, a woman, there's a baby on the way, there's US Highway 41, and there's a deer. And, no, it doesn't go the way you might think. It's still a tragedy though.
So it's mercilessly heavy, a little on the scary side, a lot on the drag side and, OK, so not my favorite Harvey Milk record. But even when they make a record I'm not completely into, it's not a bad record, in fact, it really does deserve your attention. Personally, I wouldn't listen to it after the sun goes down, though. Shit would freak me out.

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