Jun 6, 2012

Harvey Milk - A Small Turn of Human Kindness (2010)

Some declared A Small Turn of Human Kindness, Harvey Milk's heaviest album since 1996's Courtesy and Good Will Toward Men, a sort of self-parody because it was so heavy and the one before it (Life... The Best Game in Town) was a lot of fun, AND because a few of the band members gave a hilarious interview where they ripped apart every Harvey Milk release, A Small Turn of Human Kindness in particular. But man that shit was self-deprecating and in other interviews they spoke of rock operas and coherence where other albums had been collections of songs recorded and that's all

So A Small Turn of Human Kindness is that coherent rock opera and it's not just a collection of songs and it's probably their best album. Unusual for a rock opera, A Small Turn throws the listener into the end of a relationship with ominous Carver-ian symbols telling the listener (but not explaining) of a couple's emotional and psychological distance, as well as Ford-ian (Richard, that is) details which seem trivial initially but become important as the story unfolds. From what I can tell, the opening song is directed at a third party mocking the banality of the deteriorating relationship one more fish steak night? Yeah, that's fucking funny and then the rest of the album tracks that decline with said Carver-ish symbols and Ford-ish details which is just so damn sad that I can't really handle it. Spiers has stated that the story was written and the music followed, which makes sense, 'cause instruments drop in and out all the time to suit the story, and it's the first time the band's experimented with silences and not just loud-quiet dynamics. Their knack for writing minimalist metal makes me hope they take this stuff further before going ZZ Top again 'cause some of it sounds like Killing Joke by way of Khanate which is just incredible. Any way, there's little symbols through the story, like the narrator tries to convince himself that his issues don't mean much in the grand scheme of the world and finds solace in the eternity of nature, but throughout the story nature is always dying around him and in the end the trees and skies become dead gray ashes and he also notes there was grace- a rather morbid turn where death provides the answers he couldn't find in a cyclical view of the world. A lot of it is Richard Ford's Great Falls gone really Gothic ('cause you need that exaggeration for A DAMN ROCK OPERA). Like the similarly pessimistic Blue Valentine of that year, there are no real events that the listener can criticize or use to make sense of the relationship's dissolution- everything's taking place after the fact. When you ask why don't relationships work? the reply is I don't know, when you ask where did it all go wrong? the reply is I don't know, and when the dude has his go with but I still love you, he knows it's a) inevitable, and b) not enough. Seriously, just like Ry Gos (<33333333), all he can offer is it's not all bad when he really needs to come up with more than that

Like any of Ford's stories, A Small Turn of Human Kindness throws you into the story of a relationship that no amount of affection, pleading, or communication could ever mend. The band have never sounded better, and although Spiers' voice has never been more haggard, he gives it his all and makes it so lines like one more fish steak night are as dark as the magnificent and well-deserved finale. It's slow-building, crushing, depressing, but also magnificent and beautiful. Although I'll always love Courtesy more, Ima call this their best album, and that means a lot 'cause I sometimes claim that Harvey Milk are the greatest band ever



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