Harvey Milk - Life... The Best Game in Town
Record Label: HydraHead Records
Release Date: June 3, 2008
It turns out slow and steady does win the race.
Since the album opens with Harvey Milk vocalist Creston Spiers informing us that he is Santa Claus, the listener should know right away that they’re in for a unique type of album (as if the fact that it was released on HydraHead Records weren’t a guarantee enough). Indeed Life... The Best Game in Town is perplexing, speeding up and slowing down like a defective record player, but constantly achieving the full head-nodding potential of both speeds.
Heavy, crunchified grooves like those of the Melvins meet up with stuttering John Bonham drums in “Decades,” a title that effectively summarizes how long the song feels. I mean that in a good way of course; it feels like the music’s got all the time in the world to go wherever it wants. Stomping jams twist the metronome to its absolute slowest setting so that a handful of the tunes on here rival Type O Negative for "most likely heavy metal pieces to evoke thoughts of music boxes winding down." It’s pretty much the polar opposite of someone like Bad Brains who press record, have a Tourette's fit, and then just call it a day. Harvey Milk would rather let the music breathe its slow, steady breaths.
A cover of FEAR’s “We Destroy the Family” smokes, in part because you never really hear FEAR covers, but mostly because Harvey Milk soak the tune in their signature low-end sound, making it their own in the same way FEAR made “We Gotta Get Out of This Place” (originally done by 60's pop group The Animals) their own. Creston Spiers’ voice takes on the roll of Lee Ving’s very nicely, melodically hoarse and tunefully destroyed. I like it even more than the group’s cover of the Looney Tunes theme song, also included on the album. Why would I lie about something like that?
The thing that really gave this album its claim in my memory is the group’s knack for thinking outside of their own hard rock box. The very Sleepytime Gorilla Museum opening to the album and the pop-friendly “Motown” show the diverse sides of the group without knocking the album out of focus. It’s all pretty well-rounded, especially considering the general one-sidedness of the sludgy genre.
Life... The Best Game in Town is a workout-and-a-half. The heaviness will rile you up, but it’s so slow that has the ability to calm you down at the exact same time. It’s like smoking a cigarette during a panic attack (probably). One thing’s for sure though: HydraHead has made a huge score in picking up these talented groove-rockers.