A time might have existed once when garage rock seemed an out-of-date idea, or a trend best left back in the ’60s, but it’s been long enough that I sure can’t remember it being that way. This year alone, Bay Area singer/songwriter Ty Segall has committed himself to three full-length albums, each with some degree of distortion and psychedelic effects, and the already-released Hair and Slaughterhouse set a pretty high bar for any fuzz rockers to follow, himself included. Not that there isn’t plenty of room for expansion and improvement on the many decades of precent — King Tuff, for one, has made a fine glam-heavy slice of rock `n’ roll swagger this year, while across the Atlantic, Martin Cohen has carved out his own uniquely dreamy niche as Milk Maid with second album Mostly No.
There’s a strong undercurrent of shoegaze to Mostly No, its densely distorted jangle recalling the heady noise pop of The Jesus and Mary Chain as much as it does the raw squeal of any of California’s Orange amp cult. For as much noise as Cohen funnels into what he does, his songs are remarkably pretty and tuneful, the opening strut of “Dopamine” and the ear-splitting onslaught of “Do Right” providing only a hint of the depth and variety to his songwriting. “Stir So Slow” eases into a slowly moving swim through light effects and a blissfully druggy haze, while the outstanding “Your Neck Around Mine” creates the illusion of density with its heavier rhythms and soaring riffs.
When Cohen sets out to pen a mighty rock anthem as he does on “Bad Luck,” he can do no wrong — its infectious chorus, paired with just heavy enough beat adds up to a rocker on par with Status Quo’s “Pictures of Matchstick Men.” And yet, when pared down to a spare acoustic ballad, such as “Pictures of Stone,” there’s a hypnotic, gorgeous quality to Milk Maid’s music as well. There’s a lot of room for growth here, and while Mostly No is ultimately a familiar sound in a saturated market, Martin Cohen’s songwriting skills already put him way ahead and on his way toward something great.
Stream: Milk Maid – “Do Right”
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.