Get your fuzzy pop thrills with the wonderful punk rock melodies of Milky Wimpshake's 'Lovers, Not Fighters'. It contains 14 tracks of pop, punk, romance and (personal) politics and includes the classic No. 1 smash hit single (yeah. in my world, ok?) 'Dialling Tone', cover versions of Spraydog's 'Lemonade' and old folkie Phil Och's 'Do what I have to do', as well as their coruscating indictment of Jack Straw's tenure at the home office, 'Jack Ass'. The genius of Wimpshake in that they make you do things you wouldn't normally do, like jumping up and down grinning from ear-to-ear while listening to a lyric about Noam Chomsky. As the fanzine 'In Love With These Times' wrote, 'There's really no need for the Buzzcocks to reform while we have Milky Wimpshake'. Yay!
For those who haven't heard them, MW excel at punky, poppy songs with lyrics that always provoke you, even if that sometimes mean they irk you.
I stuck the album on and straight away it cheered me up. I guess some people might think it's a bit retro indie but in these days of faux garage and Pro Tools punk, it sounds fresh to my ears.
I really, really, really like the lyrics. Some of them are a bit Half Man Half Biscuit but with a streak of lefty nastiness that I love. Less ironic and distanced, more taking the piss.
This is my fave lyric, taken from the eponymous song:
"This song has a verse but has no chorus
police are out in force and looking for us
but we don't care because we're upside down
and Australia is the other way round
so we'll ignore the man
hope they'll do the same to us"
If you like The Buzzcocks, The Brilliant Corners or have a secret fond place in your heart for The Pooh Sticks 'On Tape', you'll probably love this record.
An album full of no-nonsense independent pub-rock-ish pop - in the sense of being a basic, try-it-yourself guitar-bass-drums sound - complete with good pub chat. Not of the maudlin Moffat kind, but waxing lyrical on any subject from sexually short-sighted Scrabble-playing and cleverclogs girlfriends, to the (banjo-aided!) self-explanatory lift 'White Liberal Guilt'; with songs in the modest, MJ Hibbett style of storytelling: "I know the lyrics are quite crude/But I hope you can appreciate the attitude." It's an album that leaves you with a warm glow after you've left it, like a trip made to your friendly local without even leaving your room. The problem with my local is that the barman looks just like the ginger scientist out of Twelve Monkeys who released an almost globe-destroying virus, so I'm always suspicious of the drinks that he serves us in case we'll be the first of half the human race to get wiped out. No such problems here!
The only real problem is the cloying 'Jack Ass' - their politics are more successful when more generalised, not when making a series of jokes around one minister's name - but that's only one too many! And how hard would it be to follow a cover of Spraydog's unrecognised classic 'Lemonade'? The title track is an upbeat, vigilant-with-violin finale that almost confirms the trio as a Geordie answer to fellow skilled er, wordsmiths, Australia's the Lucksmiths. Fortuna Pop! does it again…
A lot of British pop beaches itself on our shores, but it's rare to find the voice of the common English punk nerd. You don't hear much from bookish lads chatting in pubs about "anarcho-syndicalist" politics or crapping about how they never get laid. Such topics, of course, seem gloomy on the surface, but... if you sugarcoat them in some catchy pop/punk you get something pretty damn good, as proven by Newcastle-upon-Tyne's everyday rockers, Milky Wimpshake.
You can hear a little bit of Billy Bragg here, and a lot of punk, but I mostly get a serious vibe of Herman's Hermits doing "I'm Henry VIII I Am" to more spastic music. Pete Case's guitar is a gristly sandblast to the eardrums, buzzing over a keyed-up rhythm section, and the raw mix doesn't shave off the edges. It could sound like just so much noise except that these songs are catchy and their lyrics are witty. The hooks and jangle complement the distortion of "Scrabble" and "Philosophical Boxing Gloves," and the jerky strumming and haphazard squalls on "Dialling Tone" blanket a song that could be rehabbed (and ruined) as an American ska-rock hit. The band also uses harmonica, banjo and violin here and there, which adds just enough color, though the harmonium on "Philosophical Boxing Gloves" sounds a bit twee.
Case has a slim set of pipes, best displayed on the band's cover of Phil Ochs' "Do What I Have To," where he strains through the broad lines of the song. But he's adept with biting words and nimble melodies, and he shines on "Jackass," his protest against Home Secretary and fanatic prison-builder Jack Straw. Case also proves himself earnest and expressive as his songs jump from politics to love gone wrong, to his personal history, to an entire song about how etymology relates to the validity of ideas passed on to us by zzzzzzzzzzzz... er, right. Yeah, okay, so some of these topics are a bit absurd, and the songs are sometimes reachingly wordy, but Case generally makes them work. And the great cover of Spraydog's "Lemonade" puts him through lines that are more abstract and emotional, not allowing him to hunch behind his own wit.
Lovers Not Fighters at times makes me wish the band would tighten up a little more-- specifically, that Case would sharpen his own lyrics to show how clever he really is. His best lines are tight, witty and even silly: "This song has a verse but has no chorus/ The police are out in force and looking for us." On the other hand, he seems to have a rule that if he can't make a good rhyme in five minutes or less, he goes with whatever he has: "Your boyfriend seems so dull/ He was probably born in Hull."
Indeed, Case could definitely tighten the screws, but the lack of polish and these few awkward moments are probably what make the band work. Milky Wimpshake are smart, noisy, and this close to outrage, but they're too modest and good-natured to let it get in the way of a good time. And you've got to like a guy who can cut himself down like on the pro-cheating anthem "Dialling Tone": "Yeah, I know I'm your bit on the side/ But I hope one day you'll be all mine." If only the Gallaghers could be so humble.
Three years ago I plummeted from my unemployed bum status to a fate worse than the civil service by landing a brainless Mcjob to fund my rock-star aspirations. After being beaten with the stick of reality twice a day after meals for three years my dreams withered. All very sad I’m sure, but what has this got to do with Milky Wimpshake? Well, listening to their new (second) album has rekindled my hopes – it might just do something for you too.
For those that don’t know, Milky Wimpshake are a three-piece with a vocals/guitar, bass, and drums line-up. They play punky, punchy, poppy tunes, strong on melody, coupled with witty, intelligent lyrics and recurring themes of relationships, philosophy, and sociological grievances (in a non-sententious tone, I hasten to add). This album is guaranteed to get your toe tapping or your head nodding. From the opening track “Scrabble”, singer Pete’s naivety is at the fore as he describes a missed opportunity of carnal pleasures (“So she got out that Scrabble board / And all the signals I ignored / And when she got that triple-word-score / I was impressed but she looked bored”) whilst on “Dialing Tone” Pete’s regained his confidence and is making moves (“?and your boyfriend seems so dull / He was probably born in Hull”). A banjo accompanies the trio for “White Liberal Guilt” (with its singalong of “He’s White/He’s liberal!”), and autobiography mode is engaged in “Second Generation Middle Class Dropout” (“At school I got three meals everyday/Cos in those days Britain had welfare state”). The opening of “Bourgeois Blues ’99” is worthy of the finest poet laureate, “She got the petit ennui of the bourgeoisie / That’s the Summertime Blues to you and me”. By the time the album reaches the final track “Lovers Not Fighters” the banjo has rejoined us, and there’s even a fiddle thrown in for good measure!
“Lovers Not Fighters” (fourteen songs in thirty-three minutes - punk rock!) is a revelation and an inspiration. Go get it!
Although they may be hailed as the stylistic and philosophical big band of punk rock, the Sex Pistols really were largely a band that had few obvious theoretical contemporaries during those first early days of punk. Sure, there were the waves of posers and copycats that would follow with all the superficial safety pins and heavy-handed politics that the genre seemed to be founded upon, but a survey of the era seems to indicate that most of those early punkers were really just kids who wanted to play loud rock and have fun. For every band like the Exploited or the Dead Kennedy’s, there were a dozen Ramones and Buzzcocks, bands that enjoyed the simple pleasure of using three chords and clever songwriting over revolutionary politics. And even though few bands wear their old school punk education on their sleeves, bands like Milky Wimpshake offer an interesting jaunt down memory lane.
Not to give the impression that the British three-piece is a band of stereotypically mohawked caricatures, but they do have a similarly cheeky humor and nervous energy that colored much of those early, not-so-serious punk bands. Lyricist/guitarist Pete Dale proves himself an impressive tunesmith throughout, occasionally stretching rhyme schemes farther than he probably should, but always ending up with a product that is clever and catchy. Opening with the three-chord stomp of “Scrabble,” a song about being more interested in playing a board game than being with your girlfriend, a mood of light-hearted introspection is set. Before he’s done, Dale will battle with an intellectual cynic on “Philosophical Boxing Gloves,” drink too much in the self-explanatory “Too Much, Too Drunk,” and fall in love in the title track. For the most part, he does so in a such a way as to never give the impression that he’s taking himself too seriously, ultimately making whatever indulgences that are inherent in the silliness and lack of innovation of his music entirely acceptable.
Still, even though they do tend to hold rather closely to the formula of fast catchy songs with grunting guitars and punchy rhythms, Dale does lead the band down a few interesting side roads. Despite the rather anti-intellectual tone of the album, a track like “Jack Ass,” an almost throwback protest song against British Home Secretary Jack Straw that is indebted to Phil Ochs in both rhythm and melody, is an obvious surprise. Similarly, oddities like the jaunty banjo-driven “White Liberal Guilt” sound as if they could have been a hit for Herman’s Hermits, just as the acoustic guitars and fiddles of the closing title track come close to approximating country-folk. Ultimately, those are the moments where the band comes closest to emerging with something uniquely their own.
Overall, Lovers Not Fighters is an entirely pleasant and endlessly enjoyable release, whether you want punk snottiness or fey quirks. That they bounce back and forth between the two probably makes them the height of anti-cool, making them too goofy for punk kids and too punk for goofy kids. Still, the sheer defiance that is intrinsic in such a statement probably requires more nerve than simply spewing popular underground political slogans over a three-chord groove. In the end, this might be one of the most faithful punk releases of the year.
(Delusions Of Adequacy)
I'm taking the Ps: "Pete's punk pop/personal politics." It's a distillation of every description of Milky Wimpshake I've ever read. Worse, it's true. Fortunately, there's depth and complexity to back up the clichéd ease of the canned alliterative review. Pete (Dale) ran Slampt records, a label whose integrity cannot be doubted and whose back catalogue is a testament to the numerous permutations a 4-track, a guitar and spirit can wring out of punk over consecutive Saturday afternoons in the North East. Pete's lyrics are printed on the sleeve of Lovers Not Fighters. They pull off the clever trick of being right without being self-righteous, passing on the message without ever jarring and never rhyming "establishment" and "government" (although there is a terrible pun on Saussure.) Simple. And complicated.
Just over the half-hour mark and all the better for it. Jangly indie guitar pop. There, I've said it. But written with a senstitive wit, more than hint of self-deprecation and a hefty chunk of unassuming intelligence. Comparisons have been made to the Buzzcocks, but from where I see it the Wimpshakers are an altogether different proposition. The guitars don't have quite so aggressive an attack as The Buzzcocks' music had, but what the 2 bands do have in common is a propensity to write about the everyday and make it sound almost profound. The songs shimmy and shake, wriggle their way into your heart and surely stake the band's claim as one of THE ones to watch for 2002. My one-and-only criticism? More of the infectious melodies as exhibited on "Philosophical Boxing Gloves" and "Scrabble" and they'll be elevated to the superleague before they know it. Can't wait to catch 'em live. Fortuna Pop come up trumps once more, scamps that they are.
“In stark contrast to the Would-Be-Goods is Milky Wimpshake, who are very much punk, in politics if not entirely in music. Coming from a very left-wing angle, their songs poke fun at intellectuals, Tories (or those with Tory-ish politics), middle class people and so forth.
Pete from Milky Wimpshake used to co-run Slampt. The basic idea behind this label and their Fast Connection zine was very pro-underground and they believed that zines should be something very different from the mainstream press. I totally agree with this. However they took this ethic a bit too far for my taste and often came across as indie extremists, eg boycotting all records with barcodes in case they were secret major label releases. They also had a feature on tape labels in one of their zines, which classed the people that run them as 'geeky boys' - a very worrying generalisation. Even so, Pete's fervent support of underground bands is to be applauded, even if he was a tad exclusionist in his support for underground music for my liking. In my view it is possible to be pro-underground without being anti-everything else; the way my own zine works is with a big emphasis on true independent music, but if I hear something on a big label that I like (which to be honest rarely happens), I'll write about that too. I myself am extremely sceptical of the 'money before music' attitude and the obsession with image and fashion the majors have, but if a band I like signs to a major I'm not going to give up on them just like that. I'm perhaps too much of a music fan to be overtly political about music. The only time I would ever let politics get in the way of my views on music is if a band were racists or some other sort of bigot. Then I would want absolutely nothing to do with them. This isn't to say zines SHOULDN'T be political about music though, it is of course a good thing that there is a diversity of opinion in the zine scene. Expressing my own opinion on zines should not be interpreted as dictating that all zines should have the same attitude as my own!
Milky Wimpshake's Lovers Not Fighters CD on Fortuna Pop! has guess what on the cover - a BARCODE! This itself proves that not all labels that use barcodes are funded by multinational companies. A few years ago I'd probably have accused Milky Wimpshake of hypocrisy for having a record out with a barcode, but perhaps it's actually a case of them becoming less militant as they have got older, or perhaps the barcode was entirely Fortuna Pop!'s doing and the band had no say in it? Otherwise the cover looks straight out of a 1980s fanzine with its typewritten text littered with crossings out, and its Letraset titles - this must be the first record I've seen with Letraset on the cover since the early 90s. On the front is the distinctive artwork of Rachel Holborow, one half of Slampt.
I once read an interview with Pete in which he said he liked The Sea Urchins - now that's a sign of good taste! And Milky Wimpshake are themselves a good band. There are two cover versions here; the Spraydog song comes as no surprise, the Phil Ochs song does, but they make both songs sound like their own. They have a song called Second Generation Middle Class Dropout, which is described as autobiographical. Seems then that Pete's disdain for the middle classes comes from actually having experienced that background himself once. Musically Milky Wimpshake do upbeat, melodic, fuzzy pop. It's a lot of fun. They might not be too fond of intellectuals but this doesn't mean they can't turn out songs with an intelligent sense of humour. Whilst it's witty it's not pretentious, the subject matter deals with everyday life - romance, getting drunk, the UK political scene, and stereotypes of people we have all experienced. A handful of songs deviate from the band's normal sound; Lovers Not Fighters is a kind of 'hillbilly indiepop' with banjo and violin, and the banjo also puts in an appearance on White Liberal Guilt. Then there's the acoustic protest song Jack Ass, which comes down on Jack Straw like a ton of bricks. Lyrically it's typical of the band, it's just the arrangement that's a little different. All in all, a really enjoyable album.”
Just how refreshing is this? I must admit to some ignorance of underground heroes Milky Wimpshake’s actual output prior to receiving this joyous record. More fool me. Frontman and social activist Pete Dale, former head honcho of the legendary Slampt record label, mixes elements of yer Dave Gedges, yer Nigel Blackwells and yer Pete Shelleys into the distinctly personal agenda of his lyrical tales and is more than ably supported by the rhythmic clatter provided by Christine and Grant. Bet you thought that songs about things like ‘White Liberal Guilt’ and Jack Straw’s views on the prison system would have to be over-bearingly earnest and downright dull. Think again, John.