It’s my first time listening to Milk City Sweethearts, let alone Scott Lavene, which is my introduction to this manic and unguarded storyteller poet. As such, I feel particularly embarrassed at how easily I fell for him but it’s more likely I fell for an eloquent version of my own sordid life told back to me. In my opinion, it’s the most exciting and endearing piece of English music I’ve heard in recent memory. We all come together or fall apart through stories and music, it’s in our fundamental nature to do so, so it’s okay to cut yourself a break for indulging in this indulgence. Scott’s oral history will graft itself onto your own, its seductive charm is its most powerful weapon, his vanity. Our vanity. For better or worse, the album dredges up a variable canal haul full of gloopy covered shopping carts, memories better left sunk. Our own missteps and faults are what give the album it’s weight in feelings alone, Scott, You and ‘Nigel’ are like, a man whose bones weight nothing but his feelings weight a ton. Let’s dip in.
Whoever wrote the blurb on Scott’s Soundcloud did a great job distilling the music’s very essence. They also mentally ripped off every original thought I thought was my own, back to the drawing board. To call Milk City Sweethearts an Odyssey is to misrepresent the work, it’s not that it doesn’t have chops, but there aren’t any Argonauts. Instead, you’ll be walking into your local, propped on bended elbow blasting through a topsy turvy narrative between the ole El Dude Brothers, cringe, indulgent, hilarious. The whole album has an air of familiarity about, ‘Lord of Citrus’ chimes in with stick a palm in the window, maybe learn the local lingo as an ex-pat nodding my head to colloquialisms and references that I now finally get, I felt rather like I am a palm in the window myself.
Wrapping up, I’d like to whip through my top four tracks which vary as much in themes as they do musically. First off, ‘The First Time’, the second track. The song plays like a self-aware manic episode, machine gun paced rant, at a confessional. Do not listen to whilst Zorked. It is a cautionary tale luring you in with ‘the first time I kissed a girl’ and poisoning the well with ‘the first time I realized that daydreams are better than real life’, all even before the rhythm section comes in. There’s a first time for everything, one day there’ll be a last.
‘Worms’, it’s okay to be different, just like worms. The song’s appeal, much like the worms, is to be able to split itself in two, so both parts can do what they like without any compromise. It’s a shower thought song and I love it, as whimsical as it is profound.
‘The Ballad of Lynsey’ is my favourite song on the album, a close tie with ‘Say Hello to Zeus’. It is so disarmingly sad and funny in equal measures. The introductions to locations and characters are a masterclass sung so flawlessly that it would humble the likes of Laurant, Jeunet and Anderson; “I met her in a pub that was happy to serve children/ it was love at first sight/ She was pocket rocket/ a master of the trampoline”.
‘Say Hello to Zeus’ is the final track on the album and to quote Anthony Burgess, “it was gorgeousness and gorgeousity”. It’s the second shortest song on the album. It doesn’t linger, but is no less bright than any other. It’s a farewell to a friend which feels like it’s talking to us, but not a goodbye. “We’ll float back down and be ghosts in pubs and I’ll tell you that I miss you ‘cause I do”. The sentiment in this last track brought me back down to Hedwig days gone by.
This album’s success lays in its playfulness on the surface, both in storytelling and music. Dig a little deeper though you’ll find a sobering relatability in the lyrics. I caught Scott’s set at Paper Dress this week where he and saxophonist Jamie Anderson packed the shipping crate venue to the brim with fans. Scott bounced between synth and keyboard confused on if he was using a bossanova or jazz drum sample for this track. “They all sound the same”, Jamie calls out as Scott echoed back chord prompts over his shoulder it all felt like an Abbott and Costello sketch. Needless to say, they captured and held the audience’s attention while keeping them in stitches throughout the performance. Enough of the slushy stuff though, your first listen’ll work differently than mine, like a choose your own adventure, so wake up in mysterious situations with this slapper of an album, #ChaChaCha.