A Small Turn of Human Kindness
May 21, 2010 Web Exclusive
Over the course of 15 years, Harvey Milk have evolved from their sludge-metal roots like a slowly unfurling, colossal middle finger. While there will always be those who consider 1995’s full-length, Courtesy and Good Will Towards Men, the band’s finest, the albums since the group reformed (after eight years off) in 2006 have witnessed a mastery of their particular thing—the plodding chromatics, fuzzed-out leads, airplane hangar rhythm section, hyper-melodic passages, and frontman Creston Spiers’ unmistakable vocal delivery—a tortured, harmonic growl that keeps getting better with age.
A Small Turn of Human Kindness continues the process, pairing it down to a little under 40 minutes of the usual dosage of brute force, dark humor, and palpable misanthropy (self-loathing included). The songs here all flow together, with intertwined parts and themes—a sludge symphony of sorts.
The album was purportedly inspired by a disappointed fan posting disparaging remarks online, but it could just as easily be a stark confessional, with such titles as “I Am Sick of All This Too” and “I Know This Is All My Fault.” The frustration can be gut wrenching, as on “I Know This Is No Place For You,” where Spiers delivers such lines as “I’m just a broken man” with unequivocal misery.
Each time a more delicate element is introduced, it’s crushed with the riff hammer, as with the gentle synth stabs on “I Know This Is All My Fault” getting torn through with guitar tri-tones. But even at their heaviest, the group delivers the hooks, as on “I Did Not Call Out,” which pairs maximum pummel with a triumphant vocal line.
The Milk’s profile has definitely grown since getting back on the horse, in part due to higher-profile labels delivering the product and a little thing called the Internet. But one must also note it’s an inevitable side effect of FREAKING RULING. 1995’s got nothing on present-day Harvey Milk, and it seems like every album is their best yet. (www.harveymilktheband.com)
Author rating: 8/10
Average reader rating: 9/10