At Fortuna POP!’s week-long Winter Sprinter at The Lexington last month, the notorious indie pop label’s fledgling signings kicked their older stable mates into touch. Joanna Gruesome out-shouted Shrag, Evans The Death cast a shadow over Herman Dune and The Spook School showed Darren Hayman a thing or two about sneering, clever lyrics. But one of the older bands sounded as fresh as they day they were formed…some 20 years ago.
Geordies Milky Wimpshake released their first cassette nearly two decades ago but their fifth album, much like their live show, could’ve been lifted straight from it. Singer Pete Dale admits that, now in his 40s, revealing his somewhat ill advised band name to work mates causes a few blushes but he’s clearly not ashamed of their noise they make, and he’s spent the years fine-tuning a sound that’s inspired countless indiepop acts since (Wave Pictures, Let’s Wrestle and Los Campesinos! to name just a few.) It’s a sound that owes as much to My Bloody Valentine and Sonic Youth as it does Orange Juice and The June Brides, with balls of fuzz and reverb nestling between jangly guitars and wry – sometimes even hilarious – lyrics.
This might be just their fifth album but, like most bands of their ilk, they’ve countless 7”s and album contributions under their belt – reams and reams of protest songs, short blasts of twee-punk and Northern Soul covers. This 15-track collection is moulded in their latest record label’s cast; less angry and frustrated than they have been, it’s heavy on twee love songs and reflective, whimsical numbers. Dale’s voice straddles a line between painfully shy indie anorak and snarling skinhead – like a punk Paul Heaton – and Heart And Soul In The Milky Way walks a similar line.
Highlights include Chemical Spray, a bass-driven, self-referencing track that has an anarchic, Violent Femmes feel to it and Without You, an indie disco classic in waiting, with sugar-coated boy/girl vocals. (I’ll Be Your) Subject/Object is woozy and melodic, while the reflective Mirror Stage (pun intended) sees Dale contemplate his advancing age and his band’s continued underground status (“The mirror shows someone I don’t know, He looks so old but I wonder if his story is all told now…in my heart the potential to escape from turning grey…”).
If that all sounds a bit sophisticated, don’t worry – there’s plenty of the silly songs that have made them such an endearing cult band for so many years. Themes range from obsolete stationary with Letraset Angle (“Ooh Pythagoras, you’ve passed on so much fun to us”) to the very ungrown-up Uncool Jerk and (I am a) Worthless Person – a scratchy, Jilted John-ish chant-along.
Milky Wimpshake are a band who were never supposed to last – a disposable band with a silly name. But while the music’s this much fun, we should be very glad they’re still around.