At a time when most bands seem content to clone their predecessors, it is refreshing to find one that exhibits an awareness of this tired trend and attempts to subvert it. At times a wryly upbeat parody of the Libertines, at times a wittier journey along the same route as the Streets, and at times a new-age Mockney blues outfit , Milk Kan take the best from each of their contemporaries and idols and exploit the ingredients to make it into an entirely new, tongue-in-cheek concept.
Milk Kan began as a two-piece back in 2003, when they busked their way around the capital, an experience that comes very much alive on the CD’s humorously penned secret track, and then upped sticks to New York. Hot on the heels of their single 'I’m a Nobody' comes the self-titled debut album, released officially through south London indie label Blang.
The album launches straight into its no-nonsense, tell-it-like-it-is vibe with 'Bling Bling Baby', a satirical take on the shallowness of chav culture, before bounding into the Clash-influenced 'Hate Me Too', a catchy admission of self-loathing. Don’t it suck that you gotta grow up is a wistful ode to a childhood enhanced by Space Raiders and cola bottles which every listener that grew up in Britain in the 80s and 90s will relate to. On 'Without You' again they display a somewhat soppier facet but the lyrics show a brilliant, childlike intelligence and help retain their comedic vibe (“Without You it’s like a village with no idiot, like ET without Elliott, like mushy peas without the mush, like Tony Blair without George Bush”).
Meanwhile, 'God with an iPod' is an smile-raising funked-up rap that pays tribute to a string of classic old codgers such as Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan, and 'I’m a Nobody 'returns to a sound not dissimilar to the fast-paced abandon of early noughties indie darlings the Libertines. 'What You See Ain’t What You Get' is a direct attack on the darker side of modern life, placing this band alongside the recent school of guitar-clutching social commentators, but their frankness is extraordinary - not for them the insecure trap of reiterating others’ bland perceptions. The track is also enhanced by Milk Kan’s usage of unusual samples – on this one, echoes of the Dirty Dancing soundtrack linger in the background.
Listen out for the hidden track at the end because the finger work on the guitar strings is truly lovely and the (London-centric, sorry) verses will raise a smile to the lips of anyone who has fought with London’s sprawling transport system.
Milk Kan’s music is an energetic mixture of punk, old-school indie rock, 60s rock n roll and accessible hip-hop, but the most enticing thing about this album is the story-telling that weaves in and out between the chords, creating a vibrant image of a modern world laden with technology but still predominantly preoccupied by those most human matters of the heart and of politics.
The constant lyrical and musical reference to other musicians confirms that this band are fully aware of every musician’s reliance on what they have absorbed from their own stereos, but they don’t let this knowledge stop them from creating their own very distinct personality. Milk Kan sound as though they not only have some sort of innate enthusiasm and talent for what they do, but also seem not to be taking themselves too seriously while doing it. The only danger is that with the success of this album, they may begin to believe they are above comparison to their very obvious influences. However, their ability to stir these influences up into something that is both easily listenable and genuinely laudable is indeed beyond compare.