Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Harvey Milk - Live Pleaser

Label: Reproductive
Year: 1997

For a few months I worked in a kitchen with Stephen Tanner and Kyle Spence, the rhythm section of the self-maligned behemoth of a band, Harvey Milk. They had just released "Courtesy and Goodwill Toward Men", and were quick to describe it as "self-indulgent", even while those fortunate enough to have heard it, usually described it as "fucking fantastic", or the like. Of course, Stephen and Kyle knew that they were in one of the best bands in the world at the time, and they knew full well how overwhelming and crushing their music was (I mean, you can't play a fucking sledgehammer as an instrument, and not be pretty confident about what you're doing), but as some sort of test, they maligned those who found any joy in what they were doing. It was their humor, and it could be pretty brutal, but it also made for the most fun shifts I ever worked in that restaurant (not to mention we usually ended up blasting Black Flag "Live 84" on the kitchen boombox each night). Good times.
So one Saturday I was working, and Harvey Milk was going to be playing on the street a couple of blocks from the restaurant (of course everything in Athens, Georgia is a couple blocks from everything else...small town), so I timed my break to walk over and catch part of their set. Before even stepping foot out the back of the restaurant, I could already hear them rumbling the windows of downtown Athens. When I got to the stage, instead of playing glacial speed misanthropy, they were playing boogie speed good times. It was weird, although not weird based on their classic rock roots (and really, everybody loves Led Zeppelin right?), but weird that they seemed to have jettisoned their entire back catalogue in favor of this Kiss-worshiping new (but old) sound. Mind you, it pre-dated the "rock revival" of bands like Hellacopters, Tight Bros From Way Back When, and such. It was just the right thing to hear standing in the streets on a warm Spring afternoon, blasting away at full volume.
A few weeks later they were recording "The Pleaser", and the rest of the world would hear the new, faster, "funner" Harvey Milk mk II. While on tour for it, they stopped into a Boston radio station to record this set of songs, and some might say these versions are superior to the album cuts. Don't know if that's true, but they do rip pretty fucking hard.
Stephen Tanner and Kyle Spence will most likely call you a "fag" for liking it, but, that's the risk you take.



Anonymous said...

Half of the Pleaser rerelease consists of a live in the studio set of the whole album. Is this that, or something else?
Whichever, thanks, this happy version of HM rocks like nothing since Roky Erickson & the Aliens.

Gray said...

I don't know what the re-release has on it, I don't have it, but it would make sense that they packaged The Pleaser with Live Pleaser. Maybe someone else could chime in and clarify? If they're different live sets, sounds like I'll have to pony up for the new version.

Anonymous said...

Yes, 'The Pleaser' re-issue includes the 'Live Pleaser' as a bonus CD. Tanner always said he thought it was better than the actual album and he may be right.

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