Milk Music – ‘Cruise Your Illusion’ review (for The Quietus)

Pls note! The band’s debut ‘Beyond Living’ was put out by Olympia’s Perennial Records and this LP is released through Fat Possum and on vinyl by Perennial.

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In the 90s, Olympia was a hotbed of DIY punk rebellion, creativity and action. Riot grrrl bands Heavens To Betsy, The Frumpies and Bikini Kill – among many more – all formed in the city at the start of the decade. It was the heart of the queercore scene and the place where Kurt Cobain penned the majority of Nevermind. Everyone’s favourite love-to-hate foghorn Courtney Love sang about the city on Hole’s seminal 1994 album Live Through This and of course, it is home to K Records, from which came the six-day International Pop Underground Convention. Held in Olympia in 1991, this now legendary gathering was largely mobilised by the label’s rabble-rouser and owner Calvin Johnson and was a hardboiled statement of artistic independence, with many infamous acts taking to the stage, including Thee Headcoats and Fifth Column, documented on the 1994 compilation LP International Hip Swing.

It’s all scribbled down in Mark Baumgarten’s essential read Love, Rock, Revolution, but Washington’s musical mecca has by no means been confined to the history books. Present day Olympia is still very much a hive of musical activity, with a fertile hardcore scene and a glittering array of bands including Weird TV, Kozo, Space Travel Is Boring, Romantic Feelings, The Family Stoned, Gag, Son Skull, H.P.P and White Boss. Toby Vail’s enduring Jigsaw Fanzine blog keeps you in the know and like LA’s Smell, Olympia has its own all-ages venue the Northern, founded in 2009, as well as infamous punk joint Old School Pizza.

With their roots in Olympia’s illustrious hardcore scene, Milk Music – drummer Joe Rutter, frontman Alex Coxen, guitarist Charles Waring and bassist David Harris – are at the centre of this maelstrom. Their incendiary 2010 debut ‘Beyond Living’ was, naturally, DIY from head-to-toe, with the band flat-out refusing a label and keeping their internet presence down to a bare, luddite-ready minimum. So they return three years later with a label (Fat Possum), a website less fuzz, twice as many tracks and with fourth member Charles Waring picking up second guitar duties, but ‘Cruise Your Illusion’ is still an extension of the band’s embryonic self.

Instrumental opener ‘Caged Dogs Run Free’ – bleach-bathed in slide guitar, charged with smears of electric – is a widescreen romp through the great outdoors and one which welcomes its sense of prevailing freedom with arms outstretched, before the fade in of ‘Illegal and Free’ picks up and blends in where its predecessor left off. Opening out into a slow, steady, considered hard rock jam, it’s still got from-the-heart punk dissent at its core, frontman Alex Coxen baying like a jackal; “don’t fuck with me, I’m illegal and free.”

Read the rest of the review here 

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