Every time I read the following description on the band’s website “The Vanilla Milkshakes are a grouping of three studly nearly middle aged men who sing and play instruments. Sometimes they do it in tune and a melody is born,” I marvel at how true and honest that statement is. The Vanilla Milkshakes is a band that takes their music in their stride – they have no hype, no pretentiousness, and no rock n’ roll heroics. Even with cascading riffs, powerful vocals, and bouncing choruses, they enlist an underlining layer of honesty which inevitably adds incredible raw depth to their music.
A producer should always take bands in a new direction, in terms of sound that is. No one album, should replicate another. The most meticulous engineered album can still fall victim to sameness. Fans identify this easily and see it as a shallow sidestep. It’s the subtle anxiety and confidence in the producer that creates something definitive. More than a producer, The Vanilla Milkshakes have placed their trust in a triad – the album, “Tall People Have No Feelings” was recorded by Calvin Johnson (of Beat Happening and K Records). It was mixed by his assistant Pual Krogh and then mastered by Jack Endino. They’re able to force fans to exult at a sound imbalance, or a balance, depending on how you see it.
The Vanilla Milkshakes flirt with this concept all through the recording. Barricading listeners into some of the most emotional and driven songs in the indie punk genre. David McGhee: Vocals, Guitar – Frank Registrato: Drums, Vocals and JanKarl Hayes: Bass, Vocals, step their game up (I was actually convinced they did that on their last album too!), making sure nothing sounds cluttered, stagnant or stale. The genius of their songwriting comes in these “huge” moments: “Deez Boots”, “Good Intentions Will Kill Us”, “Popular”, “Sara Tea”, “We Sound Shitty So Spin Will Like Us” and “You’re The Starbucks Of People”. The overall pacing of their songs is flawless. They control the tempo, offering no needed reprieves before plunging back into the fray!
Lyrically, there is an overall story (I haven’t worked it out yet, but I’m sure there is one, as there is no way you can have a title like Tall People Have No Feelings without an overall story – or can you?). Each song is a tributary leading to the overall narrative (I think). For us, the audience, it’s incredibly satisfying to perceive these themes and create individual meaning (once we’ve worked them out!). And that’s the genius of this band. They say everything…and they say nothing…all in the same breath!
David McGhee starts with the most basic idea, and then cascades into a myriad of stories with deception, misery, pessimism, doubt, and even a sick sense of optimism resulting in an inevitable explosion of pungent cultural observations.
“Tall People Have No Feelings” functions like circuitry of our hearts. Repeating riffs, musical cues and wayward melodies amplify the album’s reverberations. The songs builds to a massive isolated moment, when all instruments drop down half a decibel, to emphasize “The Pessimist”, just before “We Sound Shitty… kicks in like a melodic powerhouse with one of the most demanding choruses I’ve heard in recent memory.
The tempos, the basslines, the pulsating drums, the sheering vocals and climactic rhythms carry this album from start to finish. For those of you who make it through the entire album, without a coffee break ( for the good of your ears), I commend you. The album is almost too raw to be true. At no time can you be passive listening to it. The Vanilla Milkshakes is the definitive alternative, punk, indie, rock and garage sound experience. Since this recording, the band has added Jeff Brink on Bass guitar, to switch to a 4-piece band…but that’s a whole new story!