by Dan Goldin (@post_trash_)
Following the demise of Chicago’s Geronimo!, guitarist/vocalist Kelly Johnson began anew with Milked, his sometimes solo but more often-than-not full band project (that includes the remainder of Geronimo!’s former members, Ben Grigg and Matthew Schwerin). He quietly released a few raw lo-fi albums as the new formation tried out new ideas and searched for its own sound. Last year the band shared Death On Mars, an album Exploding In Sound Records had the pleasure to release, and one that I’ve called a masterpiece on many occasions. That record was packed with hooks in both the traditional and non-traditional sense, riffs stuck like super glue. Just the slightest bit of time spent with it was enough to feel like you’ve been listening to it your entire life. There was a magic to it that felt classic in the “I can sing along to every song and every guitar part” kind of way.
Always meant to be more of a studio project with the occasional local show rather than a touring band, the prospects of continued activity took a turn when Johnson moved from Chicago to the wide open spaces of Eugene, Oregon. With the distance looming between the band’s members and about a decade spent creating music together, there was a sense of importance to record together again, not necessarily for the last time, but in celebration as the end of an era. The resulting album, Crawling Passed, is an incredible outpouring of everything that makes Milked (and Geronimo! before it) so special. The colossal fuzz still reigns supreme, but the band push further in every direction, from acoustic pop to ruthless hardcore, incorporating it all with charm and grace, it feels like a resolution, one last farewell (though we hope not).
Opening with the acoustic “Divine Gawking,” there’s a lush and organic introduction, the records first words offering, “saving all my pennies in secret, moving out West in a tin can dream.” The atmosphere begins to harshen, with currents of distortion moving just beneath the guitars open spaces, but things remain calm… and then there’s “Gotta Get Loose,” a hard left turn into d-beat punk that stomps and rips with an abrasion of feedback. It’s a jolt to the heart and a cathartic call for change. Just as you’ve settled into the carnage, Milked shift again, the brutal fuzz shifting naturally into acoustic twang and intricate rhythms on “Good Morning,” essentially the rainbow after the torrential downpour, with just a bit of sludge lingering at the exit. It’s the dichotomy between this opening trio that sets the tone for the record, an album that plays to how it feels, and does it all with sheer brilliance and one blistering riff after another, fuzzed out and sun soaked in a way that would make Thin Lizzy jealous..
Things continue to rattle and warp from there. “Truth In Confusion” is a quiet reflection on a relationship over and done with, built on piano and guiro assisted percussion. “Skate Rink Anthem” is jittery fuzz pop, delivered with a rapid pace before slowing into a crushing bridge, shredding with a skate punk ferocity. With songs that feel like slacker punk classics (“Plastered”), explosive slow burn ballads with surprise SST-punk endings (“Super-Charmed Life”), nostalgic power-pop (“Ecto Cooler”), folk standards (“Mr. Sun”), and disorienting electronic psych (“Lazy In The Wind”), it’s difficult to picture cohesion among Crawling Passed. On repeat listens however, it’s truly remarkable how much it all makes sense; a drift of moods, settings, and awareness that feels free and above all else, complete.