Life...The Best Game In Town
posted on 6/2008 By:
Harvey Milk is a band from Athens Georgia, named after a former San Francisco City manager. Harvey was one of the first openly gay politicians to hold a significant political office. Tragically he was assassinated in 1978. I am not sure if the band in choosing such a name wishes to memorialize a hero of the gay community or make a bad joke at the expense of a dead man, but I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and assume the former. Harvey Milk from what little information I have been able to find, spent most of its existence in the relative obscurity of the Athens, Georgia scene and released three albums before disbanding in 1998. In 2006, Harvey Milk decided to give it another go. Life … The Best Game in Town is the second album since the band’s reformation.
While there are many bands that are considered metal, without being particularly heavy (Nightwish, Rhapsody), Harvey Milk is one of those rare bands that manages to be heavy without necessarily being metal (Melvins, Swans). Slow, heavy trudging riffs are the band’s principal modus operandi, but there is also a strong element of southern boogie in their music that is more Blackfoot than Black Sabbath. Combine these elements with the generally downbeat atmosphere of the music and Creston Spires' mournful, howling vocals and it seems as if Harvey Milk are playing their own bludgeoning version of the blues.
“Death Goes to the Winner” starts the album off rather gently with a lone guitar plucking out a simple chordal melody accompanied by a delicate falsetto vocal. The heavy riffs kick in soon enough and the track grinds on to a feed back soaked climax and ends with a line from the Beatles “A Day in the Life” and that song’s familiar piano chord finish. In another classic rock reference, “Decades” apes the intro to Led Zeppelin’s “When the Levee Breaks” before the wall of doom crashes down. “Motown” is basically a pop song in structure and with the vocals being more tuneful than usual; one almost feels inclined to sing along. A cover of Fear’s “We Destroy the Family” was a nice surprise, but is rendered a bit too faithfully to be of much interest. The aptly titled “Barnburner” is a frantic track that eschews the sludge entirely in favor of blistering blues-rock riffs and a brief guitar solo that would do Skynyrd proud. The album closes with the eight minute epic “Goodbye Blues” that alternates the typical sloth-paced dirge with some more up-tempo pentatonic noodling and concludes humorously with the Looney Tunes theme that some may remember from old Bugs Bunny cartoons.
Harvey Milk manages to combine stark oppressive heaviness with familiar sounding classic rock riffs and sly gallows humor in a fairly engaging way. Fans of the Melvins should certainly investigate (former Melvins bassist Joe Preston is in the band). Fans of heavy stoner bands like Bongzilla and Weedeater and even sludge and doom fans might also find Harvey Milk’s bluesy thunder appealing.
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