Ever since I picked up on the first tremors from Milk Music around 6 months ago now, I’ve been anticipating their debut full length perhaps more than any debut album than I can remember, and it’s no wonder they’ve managed to stay away from so many radars. Their lack of online presence is typical of the image that the band is so proud to uphold. Both Wikipedia and Spotify were very slow on the uptake, only managing to prove a source of their fruits within the last few weeks or so. Couple this with the fact that the band’s debut EP, Beyond Living, was released almost 3 years ago, it can be deduced that if the band were as good at producing an album as they were at keeping a low profile, we’d be in for a once-in-a-generation standard treat. I’m pleased to announce that Cruise Your Illusion doesn’t disappoint; what the Washington four-piece have accomplished is as authentic as the influences that ooze from its fuzz, and it’s warmer than an Arabian armpit. Frontman Alex Coxen has even openly admitted to not owning a computer, and everything about his band’s resonant aesthetic screams nostalgia, and the yearn to have been born a decade or two earlier.
But yes, elusiveness aside, Milk Music have produced something pretty special here. Naturally, they were going to record their album straight to tape, and the unmastered, almost out of control fuzziness is the result of exactly what the band want to achieve. Percussion is drowned by the warmest mesh of fast-paced, lo-fi melodics, and desperate, pleading lyrics of longing let it all work together seamlessly. Song structures are so disorganized it’s almost meticulous. In fact, each song merely puts a listener into the practice room where a watertight band are jamming in blissful isolation, with each song having the potential to have been written in one take. In so many other compositions, all of these praises that I’m singing would be carry hugely negative connotations, lacking the 21st century studio grandeur and the overcomplicated songwriting traits that typify so many aspiring new bands… but rest assured. Every bullet point made contributes to the chaotic cohesion of the work of outcasts.
There isn’t a track on the album I don’t like. However, if some of them appeared on any album other than Cruise Your Illusion, I might not be as keen, and is testament to just how evoking electricity-driven memoirs can be. ‘Proper’ songs are punctuated by scene-setting interludes, but it doesn’t matter. Alex Coxen’s songwriting is able to garnish bipolar mood swings, and maintain a sense of lucid exile throughout.
I could write reams on the suitability of Coxen’s lyrics and the zeal of the fluctuating fuzz. If anything stands out more than anything else, consideration has to be taken of what proceeds and precedes a given track. Tracks 3 and 4 are the yearning, longing, urgent New Lease on Love and Cruising With God, and this brisk onslaught of self-aversion is put into the most content of perspectives by the intoxicatingly merry Crosstown Wanderer. Coxen urges, ‘If you’re a crosstown wanderer / You’ve got no home’ – a swath of the band’s implied roots and the nonplussed nature of a realization. Milk Music don’t want fame. They don’t want to keep up with any sort of Jones’s, or be anything remotely out of their comfort zone, and the overall motif of Cruise Your Illusion could not confirm this any more emphatically if it tried.
I appreciate how positive this review is, but this is not for lack of trying to find negatives. Each time I’ve listened (and I’m not willing to put a play count on it) I’ve strained myself to find something I don’t like, or something I’d selfishly edit, but I can’t. Everything is seamless. The ending of the album is sublime. Lacey’s Secret is, if I had to pick one, a strong contender for my favourite snippet of Cruise Your Illusion, before Runaway and The Final Scene close the album with utmost grace, and as much serenity as the fuzzed out lo-fi melodies will allow. Milk Music had boasted that they didn’t want a record deal, and they’re not a band that needed one. Only an independent label in the remit of Fat Possum would appeal to their ideals, and I for one am delighted that their paths crossed. I believe the band will stay authentic because their label has different virtues to most, and, judging by the clientele in the band’s ranks, they’re not likely to abandon their own. I just hope there are more installments…
So yes, easily my favourite album of 2013 thus far, and I’ve always been a sucker for an album with such cohesion, lucidity and course. Cruise Your Illusion accelerates, meanders and saunters like the most accommodating of rivers, and it may be a cliché in the arena of album reviews, but you really will wonder where the last 40-odd minutes went, or where you’ve spent it for that matter. The whole thing could be one big jam in one of the band member’s garages, and the effect that the unmastered production has is tailor-made for the desired motif. Sounds like? An influential cocktail of Dinosaur Jr., Husker Du and everything else late-80s SST. Aside from that, I reiterate the authenticity of Cruise Your Illusion, and lash out an 87%!