Milky Wimpshake – Lovers Not Fighters

Milky Wimpshake
Lovers Not Fighters

Although they may be hailed as the stylistic and philosophical big band of punk rock, the Sex Pistols really were largely a band that had few obvious theoretical contemporaries during those first early days of punk. Sure, there were the waves of posers and copycats that would follow with all the superficial safety pins and heavy-handed politics that the genre seemed to be founded upon, but a survey of the era seems to indicate that most of those early punkers were really just kids who wanted to play loud rock and have fun. For every band like the Exploited or the Dead Kennedy’s, there were a dozen Ramones and Buzzcocks, bands that enjoyed the simple pleasure of using three chords and clever songwriting over revolutionary politics. And even though few bands wear their old school punk education on their sleeves, bands like Milky Wimpshake offer an interesting jaunt down memory lane.
Not to give the impression that the British three-piece is a band of stereotypically mohawked caricatures, but they do have a similarly cheeky humor and nervous energy that colored much of those early, not-so-serious punk bands. Lyricist/guitarist Pete Dale proves himself an impressive tunesmith throughout, occasionally stretching rhyme schemes farther than he probably should, but always ending up with a product that is clever and catchy. Opening with the three-chord stomp of “Scrabble,” a song about being more interested in playing a board game than being with your girlfriend, a mood of light-hearted introspection is set. Before he’s done, Dale will battle with an intellectual cynic on “Philosophical Boxing Gloves,” drink too much in the self-explanatory “Too Much, Too Drunk,” and fall in love in the title track. For the most part, he does so in a such a way as to never give the impression that he’s taking himself too seriously, ultimately making whatever indulgences that are inherent in the silliness and lack of innovation of his music entirely acceptable.
Still, even though they do tend to hold rather closely to the formula of fast catchy songs with grunting guitars and punchy rhythms, Dale does lead the band down a few interesting side roads. Despite the rather anti-intellectual tone of the album, a track like “Jack Ass,” an almost throwback protest song against British Home Secretary Jack Straw that is indebted to Phil Ochs in both rhythm and melody, is an obvious surprise. Similarly, oddities like the jaunty banjo-driven “White Liberal Guilt” sound as if they could have been a hit for Herman’s Hermits, just as the acoustic guitars and fiddles of the closing title track come close to approximating country-folk. Ultimately, those are the moments where the band comes closest to emerging with something uniquely their own.
Overall, Lovers Not Fighters is an entirely pleasant and endlessly enjoyable release, whether you want punk snottiness or fey quirks. That they bounce back and forth between the two probably makes them the height of anti-cool, making them too goofy for punk kids and too punk for goofy kids. Still, the sheer defiance that is intrinsic in such a statement probably requires more nerve than simply spewing popular underground political slogans over a three-chord groove. In the end, this might be one of the most faithful punk releases of the year.