What Made Milwaukee Famous

Trying to Never Catch Up

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Austin band What Made Milwaukee Famous (yes, like the Jerry Lee Lewis song) had already made a nice name for themselves by the time Barsuk Records decided to sign them and re-release their 2004 debut, and it's clear from the first notes of Trying to Never Catch Up that this is a band that knows what they're doing, and is pretty damn sure about it, too. It's especially the eight songs carried over from the original release that really showcase the group's strengths and utter likeability. The four new tracks added here, while not bad ("Judas," in particular, is great, staying in the lower registers and offering abstract advice like "please direct your questions that direction with regards to disregard"), are lacking a bit of the subtlety and poeticism that is so inherent in the older pieces. "Sweet Lady," for example, although interesting musically, has pretty run-of-the-mill lyrics, the only time on the album that really happens. Because normally, WMMF singer Michael Kingcaid has an easy way with words, making disparate sentences seamless, switching from an electronically-induced growl to a sweet falsetto in the same measure, his tenor telling tales of broken relationships with absolute sincerity and without making himself seem weak or embittered. "Hellodrama" is an upbeat, summery pop song with keyboards, a new wave disposition, and Costello-esque lyrics: fun yet serious at the same time ("When you show up it's like a landmine close enough to leave indelible scars adhered to one such impressionable person," he sings brightly) while "Idecide" and "Trying to Never Catch Up" both take catchy melodies and combine them with darker lyrics and more intense guitar work. What Made Milwaukee Famous is not just another Spoon -- yes, those comparisons came from somewhere, and yes, Jim Eno mixed the four new tracks on the album -- but there's a bittersweetness, a harder edge that plays within and around the written lines, that's as apparent as the warmth that made them so appealing in the first place. They're a band with their own voice, their own ideas, and their own great talent, and will inevitably leave their own mark on the music world.

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