Just when you think garage rock has finally been flogged to death, another little gem rises to the surface. Last year saw excellent releases from the likes of Thee Oh Sees (Warm Slime) and Burnt Ones (Black Teeth & Golden Tongues) revitalise the scene's tired persona and Thicker Milk, the second long player from Virginia five-piece The Super Vacations, can add its name to the list.
Following on from 2009's self-titled debut, Thicker Milk isn't about rewriting the rule book or reinventing the wheel. Judging by the way they somehow manage to cram twenty one songs into just over thirty five minutes, one would imagine pausing for breath to be something of an achievement as far as The Super Vacations are concerned. Having been reared on a diet of Captain Beefheart, The Kinks and the 13th Floor Elevators among others, Thicker Milk veers off in many directions without ever outstaying its welcome in any one vicinity.
While its predecessor introduced the world to the raw songwriting talents of vocalist Rob Ulsh and guitarist Mike Hill, the newly expanded line-up makes for an all the more catatonic affair, Bladen Day's surf-orientated guitar patterns complimenting Hill's more incisive riffage while the rhythm section of bass player Ross Guthrie and Ulsh junior Ryan on drums just about holds everything together. Indeed one would imagine The Super Vacations being a whole heap of fun live, combining a potent dose of energetic aggression with subtly precise harmonies asunder.
To dissect Thicker Milk track-for-track would probably be doing both band and record a considerable disservice, and while the quantity of songs here maybe could have been reduced in favour of more quality, there's little to complain except to say one's still none the wiser as to where The Super Vacations as a unit see themselves today or tomorrow.
Opener 'Moss' takes the same tropical noise path as pre-Crush Abe Vigoda only with better drugs for company, while recent single 'Be Glad' is reminiscent of The Black Lips' more auriferous melodies. There are moments too where Thicker Milk doffs its cap towards this side of the Atlantic, with 'Ten Second Freak Out' - ironically the album's longest ditty at a mammoth three minutes - borrowing frenetically from Eugene Kelly and Frances McKee's shambolic manifesto alongside the more harmonious 'Into The Void' and 'Proton', both dead ringers for My Bloody Valentine's pre-Creation exercises in Sixties-flavoured noise pop.
Overall, Thicker Milk is a mixed bag that - while flying the flag for all things organically lo-fi - still oozes a certain degree of charm many incumbents on a similar theme lack. Sure, it's not going to win any prizes for originality either but as incendiary guitar music goes in these barren post-millennial times, Thicker Milk provides a welcome slap in the face of complacency, which more than justifies its existence thankyouverymuch.
7Dom Gourlay's Score