The Milkshakes

The 107 Tapes

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Anyone familiar with Billy Childish's work expects a certain amount of willful sloppiness when they put on one of his records, but this collection of early demos and live tapes from the Milkshakes, the combo where he first solidified the sound that would make his name, sounds crude even by his lo-fi standards. The 11 demos that open The 107 Tapes (named for the house in Chatham where the group rehearsed) predate the first Milkshakes album by close to a year, and this is the group at ground zero; the fascination with classic British beat music, the stripped-down attack, and Childish's raw enthusiasm and power as both a guitarist and vocalist were all in place, but Childish appeared to be several leagues ahead of his bandmates in both skill and charisma at this point, which makes for a distressingly ordinary rhythm section, and Martin Waller's sax is too far up in the mix for its own good (though the one-mike production style suggests they couldn't have fixed it if they wanted to). And while the songs are pretty good for the most part, Childish would be turning out better material within a few years. The rest of the disc is taken from two gigs the Milkshakes played in Germany in April 1983; by this point the band sounded a great deal stronger and more confident, and this documents them doing that they did best. The live Milkshakes rock solidly on a set of originals and early rock covers, and the audio, if not exceptional, is better than on the demos, but the audience doesn't seem very enthusiastic, and Childish and his bandmates enjoy throwing uncharitable insults at them in the grand tradition of John Lennon at the Star Club. Serious Billy Childish fans will enjoy this for the live material, but The 107 Tapes is best suited for completists rather than casual admirers, and no one needs to hear the demos more than once.

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