Saturday, 28 March 2015

Oliver: Milk - Claws (2 December 1991)

Considering that this blog plays out to a background of adventures in amateur dramatics, it's wholly appropriate that I've always been drawn to "dramatic" tracks.
These can take many forms.  A dance track might make use of a particularly thrilling sample or it could be the urgency of the beat that catches the attention.  Hip-hop music has long understood the value of "drama" as a part of its texture, ranging from use of samples to spoken word vignettes within and around tracks.

Rock music runs the full gamut of "drama" as well.  At its silliest that means Meatloaf or Aerosmith (both of which I enjoy in moderation), at it's starkest it can mean Suicide or PJ Harvey's more extreme output.  But at it's most nuanced and thrilling it means one of my favourite bands, Marion or London trio, Milk, a band who, in the words of Discogs, sought to make "art metal". They made a pretty good fist of that concept in their handful of releases.

For me, the best "dramatic" rock music has nothing to do with histrionics, theatricality or storytelling.  What draws me in is a clash of ideas within a track, the sense that the artist is battling with multiple points of view in the search to resolve whatever is driving them to create the track.  Claws is a peerless example of what I'm talking about.  What starts out as something which Peel himself described as "veering dangerously close, at times, you may think to heavy metal" takes a turn into something more anguished and compelling.  Whether the metaphorical claws refer to pressure, expectation, addiction, head-fucking or aggressive sex, Vick Kemlicz's impassioned vocals and guitar showcase someone simultaneously licking their wounds and showing them up for further gouging.  I LOVE the mid-section of this song, the rising guitar line evoking the protagonists circling one another ahead of their next confrontation before the explosion of the solo riff reflecting the battle only for us to end on an exhausted chorus reprise suggesting that the claws can be retracted again till another day.

It's a wonderful track - thrilling, brutal in parts and nakedly emotional.  I don't think I've played a track more often in the run up to to blogging about it than this one. When this blog finishes its 13 year trawl, I can say with utter confidence that this track will be in an all-time top 20 of my selections.

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