This record’s been a long time coming, but like a lot of things that gestate in the cultural catacombs for years, it’s worth the wait. Milk Music came to prominence about a decade ago with an album that was by turns brutal and bruised, rooted in the post-Young, post-Crazyhorse gnarl that rolled through the indie aura, dragging the debris of Meat Puppets and Wipers along with them. The band’s last album kept the pace, left some scars, and then promptly found Milk Music disappearing for the next six years. Milk Music proper dissipated with the last LP from the PNW stalwarts, with the band adopting that album’s title as their new name. The name is gone, but the soul remains. Mystic 100s still pick at the scabs of the ‘70s, but with a focus on longform acid trips as the basis for the new album, there’s a lighter breeze blowing through the amps and a decidedly exploratory tone glazed over that ol’ gnarl. The tension of their past has melted into winding guitar passages, piano popples, and a headiness that was never a feeling I’d have associated with them previously.
With the rise of Cosmic Americana in the last few years, Mystic 100s have tacked their sails into welcoming winds. The record is by turns tender and resigned, with a kind of crumpled weight to it, but it pushes through bouts of ecstasy and humor as well. Alex Coxen’s vocals crack and strain as they have in the past, but there’s a shaggy smile that underscores the pieces that inhabit On A Micro Diet. The band’s mid-“Lonnie” namecheck to Jerry Garia seems apt, but the most endearing portions of the record stitch together early punk intensity with the long shadow of the Dead’s influence. At times Coxen’s howl feels like Tom Verlaine sitting in on Largeness With (W)holes-era Always August. It’s tied to the SST grit, but vibrating on a parallel grid where grunge got heady and stayed heady. As the album wears on the band moves even further out on the spectrum, finding solace in the darkness and din of Amon Düül or Agitation Free, especially on the 18-minute centerpiece “Have You Ever Chased A Lightbeam?.” This is not what I would have expected when the band announced a return, but once the past expectations are shorn away, as I imagine is the point of the name change, this shapes up into a wonderful psych-punk gem.
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