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Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
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Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
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Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
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The Walkmen - Lisbon
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Fat Possum
The Milk of Human Kindness
Domino Records

Rating: 8.5/10 ?

April 25, 2005
You've heard by now, I imagine, how Dan Snaith was bullied into dropping his Manitoba moniker by some dude named Handsome Dick Manitoba. Had I found myself in the same boat, I would've stuck to my guns and slugged it out in court - honestly, the only thing more ridiculous would be Morrissey and Marr filing suit against Elliott Smith's estate on similar grounds - but Snaith had more important things to do (like conquering universes of sound) and more important things to spend his money on (like artillery), so he adopted Caribou as his new alias. This all means that The Milk of Human Kindness is the follow-up to Up in Flames, even though you'll have to look for it in a different rack in the record store.

Perhaps the lawsuit was divine intervention through the whims of an arrogant killjoy dumbass. Just as Caribou is Manitoba, but not quite, this record is what we've come to love about Snaith, but not quite; it's similar enough to past efforts that one can trace his artistic trajectory with a steady arc, but it's the point in the arc where the slope takes a radical increase, making the name change seem like an appropriate signifier.

To put it more mundanely: Up in Flames was Saved By the Bell, with all of your friends hangin' out at The Max, drinking shakes, bathing themselves in washes of Neil Halstead guitar and drowning in sugary 21st century melodic psych, but still finding time to make it out to the big game Friday night (dressed head to toe in Bayside colors, of course); The Milk of Human Kindness is SBTB: The College Years, except it's the lost episode where Screech buys this bitchin' bong and Slater and Jesse stay up all night talking Eastern philosophy over a grease-stained Papa John's box and listening to Future Days. It's the same cast of characters, but they've grown up and gotten fucked up to the point that you may not want to associate yourself with them anymore.

So yeah, Danny Snaith apparently digs the krautrock way more than he ever let on before, and he lets it rip with some of the most indulgent and downright wicked Neu! send-ups this side of Stereolab's "Metronomic Underground."

"A Final Warning" rides a locked-in groove into a swirling chorus of blurry "om"'s, recalling the effervescence of earlier works like "Jacknuggeted" but ultimately working from a much more humorous, over-the-top angle. "Bees" injects a snarky "Low Rider" lick into its hypnotic, airtight riffage, with sun-drenched vocal melodies completing the totally trip-a-delic, "Dude, feel this shit" package.

Perhaps these descriptions make the album sound like a slice of too-clever camp, but it's really anything but. As much as Snaith's starker explorations of 70s rock can come across as excessive or even cartoonish, he never lets the jam supercede the song, and the cheddar goodness of moments like the chorus of "A Final Warning" seem tame in comparison to, say, Comets on Fire or DMBQ's treatment of psychedelic conventions.

While the handful of spaced-out rockers comprise the meat of this offering, the way Snaith fills in the gaps may be even more impressive. He saves/wastes his finest head-nodding beats in brief affairs like "Lord Leopard," casting his slickest hip-hop breaks out and reeling them back in over the course of a minute.

A lesser talent wouldn't unleash his fiercest drum samples during what could easily be a throwaway interlude, but Snaith's willingness to do so works to his advantage. It only takes 90 seconds to "get" his thumping hip-hop flavored numbers - and with The Milk being an album that seems to have been made with the bedroom in mind rather than the club, there's no need to prolong them. Meditating on and expanding upon gusts of interstellar wind serves Snaith's purposes better; his ephemeral forays outside the purple haze help to make this a stronger, more varied and rewarding collection of songs.

Reviewed by Phillip Buchan
A one-time music director at WUOG in Athens, Phillip is into college radio, literature, writing, buying records, going to shows, talking to friends, learning -- pretty much the same stuff that all of us priveledged, (pseudo?)intellectual Americans are into.

See other reviews by Phillip Buchan



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