Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Pitchfork Forkcast: Harvey Milk's "Death Goes To The Winner!"

huge thanks to Grayson Currin and Mark Richardson for the support!

New Music: Harvey Milk: "Death Goes to the Winner" [MP3/Stream]

If anything has remained constant for Athens, Ga.'s Harvey Milk over the past 16 years (eight of which constituted a hiatus), it's that Harvey Milk's fucked with everything, mostly for better. The "experimental metal band" with the tools and the audacity to outstrip, I think, most others, the Milk covered Leonard Cohen on their second record, devoted an entire performance to the catalogue of Hank Williams, and released a record that sounded aggressively like modern radio rock in 1997. Their records have offered noise and acoustics, whiplash and lullabies. Some bands treat rules and expectations like anchors. Harvey Milk treats them like punchlines.

That said, "Death Goes to the Winner" -- the insurgent opening gambit on the band's fifth and arguably best album, Life…The Best Game in Town -- holds nothing sacred. Or at least it mangles about five things you may hold very close: Santa Claus, the guitar solo, the Velvet Underground, Paul McCartney, and winning. Over slow, interweaving, clean electric guitars, Creston Spiers sets a Christmas scene, mixing sinister and sweet as he sings, "I am Santa Claus." When the track finally reels forward 100 seconds in, Harvey Milk barely look back. The drums, bass, and guitars lock and batter. Spiers barks black air. Downshifting in its own sludge, the band churns forward, Spiers delivering the record and track title as dual mantras: "Life is the best game in town/ Death goes to the winner." The guitar solo that follows, then, is the sound of an orthodox solo choking to death, all tone and rhythm wheezing into shrieks of feedback and swells of noise above a break-back, diabolical clatter. When Spiers returns, he kills your idols, rewriting VU's "Waiting for My Man" and biting the Beatles' "A Day in the Life": "Woke up/ Got out of bed/ Put a pistol to my head." One piano chord, and out. I’m pretty sure it's a declaration: Harvey Milk wins.

(((Click here to download "Death Goes To The Winner!")))