Chad Batka for The New York Times
Let’s hear it for slow, and also for obscure. In December 2010 Milk Music released its debut EP, “Beyond Living” (Perennial). Played a few shows. Got a couple of reviews. But that ineffable thing that happens to some new bands when one release becomes a fire-starter from which there’s no turning back — it didn’t happen.
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Last November Pitchfork tracked down Milk Music for an interview, and its frontman, Alex Coxen, talked about having to wash dishes to make his $ 125-a-month rent. The band still didn’t have a Web site.
The Internet has fast-tracked and in some cases ruined hundreds of bands, thanks to instant recognition and a never satisfied maw of demand. But Milk Music suffered from not-so-benign neglect. The group wasn’t delivering with regularity, and it suffered the consequences.
Luckily for this Olympia, Wash., band, “Beyond Living” had legs. A great squall that recalled a less manic Black Flag, or a lusher early Dinosaur Jr., it felt impressive and also unfashionable, harking back to a period others were ignoring. Until they weren’t, that is.
Milk Music played on Monday night at 285 Kent, in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, the sort of space that often hosts younger bands with speedier ascents. In a way Milk Music is playing catch-up, but part of the charm is its reluctance, its mild indifference. The band members — Mr. Coxen, Charles Waring on guitar, Dave Harris on bass, and Joe Rutter on drums — don’t engage much with the crowd, or with one another. They have honed a sound, if not quite a presentation.
Mr. Coxen, his band T-shirt tucked tight into high-waisted jeans, yowled animatedly into the microphone as he picked out surly, effective licks on his guitar that in moments also called to memory dirty Southern rock of the 1970s. But the wall of rhythm by Mr. Harris and Mr. Rutter was undeniably darker and muddier, nodding to the time in indie rock when cleanliness was a plague to be fought against.
This show comprised mostly new songs from an album the group is soon to record, but they lived comfortably alongside the band’s older material. “Here’s one you might know,” Mr. Coxen said at one point, as if recognizability were something of a drag.
That new album is likely to play by the usual rules: disseminated quickly, dissected even more quickly. It will be a big change for a band whose other releases to date include a cassette drawn from a live performance on WFMU-FM in Jersey City, a download of another live performance and a flexi-disc single in a zine. But the band is gearing up for its run on the treadmill: It has a Web site now, and in June “Beyond Living” finally made it to iTunes.
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