White Rabbits’ New Offering, ‘Milk Famous’ Fortunate First Pick for SXSW!

I was looking for an interesting new CD to purchase from one of the bands playing the SXSW Music Festival here in Austin. When reading Luke Winkie’s Chronicle blurb on White Rabbits’ new one, Milk Famous (TBD Records), I took a chance on it, because I liked the pink cover with simple, spray-paint lettering. Another factoid caught my weary, waning eyes: WR fare from Columbia, Mo. I have family from Columbia, so a slight unveiling of their identities beckoned me forward!

I rotated the platter through a couple of times to see what it could do for me. Next, I read a few album reviews from online pop music magazines. One review specifically from Pitchfork made some good points, but was charged with vitriol, accusing White Rabbits of being a Spoon spin-off band. With Spoon’s Mike McCarthy as their producer on this outing, this is perhaps an inevitability. I’ve never owned a Spoon record before, so I’m not able to see the connection.

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I am able to see a Radiohead connection, however, since I own every single one of their records. The morph to electronica is noticeable here. Back For More is playing right now, with splashes of keyboard, thumpy bass, and falsetto alien vocal emanations, against WR’s signature calypso rock rhythm/sound. Other critics mentioned (as a comparison) Radiohead’s The King of Limbs, which had occurred to me as well (before I saw it in print – honest!).

Well, one general comment that’s sure to stick, is that the stereo mix sounds beautiful, with all the instruments bouncing off your ear-cones like there’s no tomorrow. And that’s without breaking things down *(which is often referred to as pop criticism). This is how it ought to be! Works terrifically on Day You Won the War, with its George Harrison-like power guitar pick-up riff, that must be Day You Won’s hook. Love the art-noise beginning and ending; come to think of it, that was John’s break away from The Beatles movie role.

Temporary is the new single for Milk Famous, and is a bolt of lightning, power-pop with a peppy 4/4 jaunt down the lane of crunching electronica, filled with pulsating bass, synthesizer paint slashes, jacked-up lead guitar, trash-can drums, draped with high, piercing vocals, that sound as if they’re coming out of concrete piping. And what’s up with Hold it to the Fire? This is a science fiction soundtrack-like number. Interesting! (Will revisit).

Heavy Metal is the first song I heard just last night. When visiting WR’s web site, I see Heavy Metal has an interesting video to go along with it. Two girls and a dude, who look as if they’re forming a cult of some sort, take some drugs toward the end, and begin to trip. Not a bad video in an understated way, and the song itself is probably the strongest one on the new record, with its twin-virtues of electronic experimentation and simultaneous (Radiohead-esque) pop sensibility.

I’m quite pleased with Milk Famous, as my first pick from the thousands of bands and new product that pour into Austin every March that inevitably comes around. My satisfaction may be partially due to the fact that I lack some background, such as a command of Spoon or ignorance of their previous records. I get the joke of I’m Not Me, where they morph into an ELO thing, so ‘it’s nothing personal.’ And White Rabbits are from Columbia, Mo. and I lived there once for a while in the mid-1970s. Not Brooklyn dudes, you can tell.

WHITE RABBITS – Milk Famous – Out Now