Robb Milford – Goose Egg

Robb Milford
Goose Egg

Milford has been around for a few years playing gigs pretty much anywhere he can. His most recent release may not be representative of his performing abilities. His decision to hire what he describes as a “fictional back-up band” (The Green Olives of Justice) was probably in order to achieve a more complete realization of his musical ideas. When a good musician is also adept at production techniques and has unlimited time to apply his obsessions the result can be all encompassing – an alternate universe of personalized sound. A side-effect of such isolated creation under hermetically sealed recording conditions can be a subtle emptiness … the void normally filled by the interaction of musicians. Alexander “Skip” Spence is a great example, with his release of Oar that is haunting in its icy singularity. Milford does not suffer from this feeling of claustrophobia in his music; instead the multiplication of instruments creates the opposite effect. The clutter of varied sounds distracts us from his vocals rather than work with them to add warm interpolations or counterpoint.

“Goose Egg” starts off with a similar motive (albeit much cleaner) to that of early Dinosaur Jr. (a la Dinosaur), but as the vocals emerge, the driving buoyancy seems ill-suited to Milford’s southern drawl. His singing style merged with the poppy rhythms removes him from a blues-based style but accentuates the part of his voice resembling the particular regionalism of Eddie Vedder or the lead singer of Creed. Most of the time, Robb Milford’s delivery feels sincere and works as a vehicle for his lyrics, but the incongruity between his dialect and the musical accompaniment makes his vocals sound highly stylized with no benefit to his music or the listener. This attempt to sound gritty, to have a “well-lived” voice can work when it adds an element of theatricality or a sense of humor to the music (e.g. Tom Waits), but with Milford it adds nothing. Decent lyrics and songwriting skills are masked by the incompatibility of styles that Milford tries to bring together. It is not at all clear that this is the fault of the music itself having too many elements or if it is simply the production and instrumentation hiding the true potential of Milford’s song.

It may appear that I am harping on too subtle a point without giving you a full sense of just how the music sounds or makes you feel/think about. But then, I am unable to delve any deeper into the song as the arrangements are not at all conducive to this. I am reminded of a Dizzy Gilespie album I purchased only to bring it home to hear his solos obscured by a dense string-pop orchestra. Frustrating.