Essex outfit suffers something of a musical identity crisis.
Paul Clarke 2012
The landscape of chain pubs and amusement arcades that Chelmsford quartet The Milk paint on Hometown – essentially Doves’ Black and White Town on the other side of the M25 – will not only be familiar to anyone who’s ever spent a night in Southend, but anyone who’s ever seen The Only Way Is Essex.
Yet – and presuming the subject of Mr. Motivator isn’t the spandex-clad vision of mid-morning TV – the characters that inhabit their debut album are less likely to be pumping iron in the gym than pumping the pedal as they drive their Cadillac back into town to be reunited with their woman.
Or maybe that should be “woommoowwnnn”, given that singer Rick Nunn pronounces that word on opener Broke Up the Family with the yelp of Little Richard rather than with the nasal drawl of Estuary English. For whilst The Milk’s suburban rage and gang mentality recall The Jam – and Nothing but Matter’s 2 Tone bounce could pass for Madness – it’s the States from where they take most of their inspiration.
Indeed, the time they sound most British is when Idris Elba – a man who has made a living pretending to be American – guests with a gruff Cockney voiceover on Picking Up the Pieces, even though the pounding bar-room piano and burly guitars suggest he’s just wandered into a Kings of Leon record.
Elsewhere, the stomping (All I Wanted Was) Danger, the anthemic Every Time We Fight and closing ballad Lay the Pain on Me wear their Motown and Springsteen influences with the obviousness of a fake tan.
Of course, whilst The Milk might be at pains to distance themselves from such orange-skinned stereotypes of their home county, you could argue that their bluesy rock is equally clichéd. That said, the hip hop beats and scratches injected by producer Brad Baloo of The Nextmen means it’s not an entirely retro affair.
And it’s impossible not to be swept along by The Milk’s sheer energy, so that the chorus of Chip the Kids sounds destined to be bellowed out at closing time outside the sort of small town pubs this band dreams of escaping.