Song of the Day

Milk Bath, “Bootlicking 101” (World of Hurt Records/Different Kitchen Records, 2020)

The ever fertile and abundant Bay Area punk scene has again yielded gold. The Oakland-based punks collectively known as Milk Bath recently dropped a stunner of an LP via World of Hurt Records (US) and Different Kitchen Records (UK).

Composed of members of No///Se and Glass and Ashes, Milk Bath finds the peak of their powers synthesized squarely at the midpoint of the two. The ripping post-punk hardcore of the former is still embedded deeply in their DNA, as is the reckless cacophony of the aforementioned Glass and Ashes, whose two stellar No Idea Records releases are criminally slept on.

As if a the meeting of two poles, they manage to marry ambitious and wiry discord to something a bit more pummeling. Much like one time label mates Planes Mistaken for Stars, there’s a primal edge to their murky and sludgy take on punk that adds an extra layer of malice and urgency. Sound good? It should! Let’s hop in. 

The center of their thrilling Venn diagram is a fluid and trademark sound that enthralls across the full long player but, for our purposes, is best typified by the Song of the Day. As sadly poignant as ever, the pointed missive that is “Bootlicking 101” is a highlight among many.

Built around an absolute scorcher of a riff that knows its way around the Drive Like Jehu discography, the balance between off-kilter post-punk and aggressive USHC punk is deftly navigated. It’s at once off-kilter and driving, keeping a disaffected streak throughout the song’s runtime.

Much like their lovably odd and misleading moniker, Milk Bath are just as likely to go from a grating exfoliation to flaying your fucking skin off in seconds.

It thumps along propulsively and the rhythm section is shockingly dense for a trio, laying the perfect foundation for the blown out, treble heavy punk guitar atop it all. At times the riff recalls the straightforward joyous steamroll of Litany-era Fucked Up or their forebears Poison Idea, while sounding like neither. Cymbals clatter and clash wildly, barely managing to keep pace with the mangled vocals, which run the gamut from resigned to sneering antagonism from line to line.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Though musically disparate, it recalls the hyper-literate takedowns penned by Single Mothers. The oft-repeated line “you should kill yourself” doesn’t mince words, instead going for the jugular of cop-fetish sycophants clogging up the path forward. Bilious barbs aide, it’d be reductive to call it simple and, instead, the woozy hypnosis of the line repeated with increasing urgency is yet another weapon in the band’s formidable arsenal.

Musically, they remain just outside expectation so even while summoning all the requisite bile and phlegmy pugilism to give the lyrics their due, the band explores daringly around it. 

All this said, Milk Bath don’t really sound like anyone except for, well, Milk Bath. Imbued with a sense of rubbery flexibility, even the wildest detours eventually return to a core sound.

It’s rare I can honestly say something has a “singular sound” but, alas, here we are. The first song wasn’t even over before I found myself reflexively buying the album. We’re gonna be here for a while, y’all. Snag it and let their fetid brew of lactic acid wash over you...

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Pick up Milk Bath on LP via World of Hurt Records in the States, and Different Kitchen Records in the UK.

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