Milk Chopper – The Secret Life of Numbers

Milk Chopper
The Secret Life of Numbers

Milk Chopper clearly has its influences, Pavement being the obvious one. The Secret Life of Numbers has quite the Crooked Rain Crooked Rain guitar feel. And vocalist Michael Cormier does project a touch of Malkmus, particularly in rockers like “Rubber Balls.” But Milk Chopper is more along the lines of the “Range Life” Pavement as opposed to the “Silent Kit/Elevate Me Later” one. Milk Chopper uses pedal steel, keys, and a load of samples on top of the guitars and (sometimes dub) bass, which results in more of a carefree, breezy California feel than what Pavement brought. The half-nonsense lyrics remain intact, however: “I’m sitting on a hand grenade / and everything looks the same from here / meet the press / a silent mess / can’t you see that I’m impressed / you’re coming in loud and clear / I resent common sense / April fool’s defense.”
Really my only gripe with Milk Chopper is that they tend to have too much fun for my tastes on many tracks, where I would prefer that they bring some distortion to the table on a more regular basis. The mid-rockers are interesting if given the proper attention, but it is the numbers like “Big Number,” “Rubber Balls,” and “Bombed Out Bombay” that can grab even the most distracted of listeners. “Big Number” in particular finds the perfect balance of rock and playfulness, as the first half bounces along with crunchy guitars and Kesten Migdal’s vintage synth, while the second half goes all Santo and Johnny on the listener with its use of the pedal steel guitar.
The only songs that bother me are “Down on Me” and “Drunk Driver,” both of which are sample-heavy. The first one suffers from a lack of focus, while the second one has lyrics about puking in cars. But in between these two slightly disappointing tracks are a number of keepers. “Rubber Balls” is the loudest track on The Secret Life of Numbers. If the rest of the songs followed suit, I’d be all over this album. Instead, we get the pleasant surf number “The Secret Life of Numbers,” the uncharacteristically depressed “Mr. Formula One,” the digestible rock song “Mayday,” besides the aforementioned “Bombed Out Bombay,” which wins on all fronts. The somber “Hot Love” closes the album, if you don’t count the short, hidden 11th track.
Milk Chopper’s The Secret Life of Numbers feels remarkably cohesive for a debut album. I was surprised by what an enjoyable listen it is. And, actually, it doesn’t sound that much like Pavement. But, you know, now that Pavement is no longer with us, I don’t mind listening to an album that reminds me of the band. Really, though, The Secret Life of Numbers is much more of a studio album than any Pavement releases. It has enough of an original Milk Chopper sound (and fairly comical artwork).