Milk Teeth have become an important band for me for reasons musical and otherwise. So I’m always inclined to root for them and never more so than on the release of their second album.
By the time their debut full-length, Vile Child, was released in the first month of 2016, Milk Teeth had made their mark on my consciousness with the Sad Sack EP.
The album stacked up all the individual components of Milk Teeth’s sound, then years of seeing them live over and over and over again cemented them together.
(Brickwork. See? Oh, fuck off.)
The band that’s produced the second, self-titled Milk Teeth album isn’t the one that made Sad Sack. It’s not even the one that made Vile Child. Not even close; it is, in almost every regard, a very different proposition.
That ‘almost’ is crucial because it’s Becky Blomfield, the band’s singer, bass player and chief writer, then and now. And she’s what makes Milk Teeth one of Britain’s most essential acts.
Her band is now two-thirds Nervus. Em Foster joined as the guitarist in 2018 and drummer Jack Kenny is the latest recruit in what is now a three-piece.
Blomfield and Milk Teeth have been through some shit. Even as a fan it’s been clear when times have been tough.
But one thing’s always been certain: whatever is happening in the world of Milk Teeth, whatever battles have had to be fought, they always deliver.
Milk Teeth has been a long time coming and the passage of time is evident in the output. It’s confident and assured from front to back and the minimalist production job suits it beautifully.
When you’ve got songs this good you might as well let people hear them being played. Milk Teeth sound like humans playing musical instruments and they have the tunes to back it up.
That punk rawness and songwriting ability make Milk Teeth a real force, the 2020 answer to the catchy, guitar-driven rock that was commercially prevalent 25 years ago.
Blomfield, vocally and creatively, is every bit as good as the ringleaders and rabble-rousers who took grunge and Brit Rock by storm and became household names.
You don’t even need to listen past the first song and single from Milk Teeth to hear that. ‘Given Up’ is a hooky, infectious showcase for both her brilliance and Foster’s flawless ear for a guitar tone. And it sounds real.
On one level these are just more great Milk Teeth songs, but this is an album pebble dashed with new tricks, vocally in the terrific ‘Flowers’ and ‘Better’, stylistically in ‘Dilute’ and ‘Medicine’.
The latter begins, to my ear at least, with the record’s most prominent Nervus influence.
More than any other song on this record ‘Sharks’ has its roots in early Milk Teeth. It shares much with the vibe of those old songs but it fits seamlessly here because it oozes aplomb.
The single ‘Destroyer’ remains a highlight in its proper context. Its mid-paced grunt is the perfect canvas for Blomfield’s irresistible vocal alt-rockiness, offset by Foster’s background screams and the record’s most crushing riff.
Milk Teeth glides home from there, its last three songs a trio of polished, measured modern rock numbers that explore some very different aspects of a band who’ve become undeniable.
The choruses on this album are fantastic, good enough to drag otherwise vacuous songs out of the gutter. When they’re backed up by songs of this quality, they should be making Milk Teeth very famous indeed.
Vile Child has on it some spectacular songs. Its peaks scrape along the bottom of the stratosphere. The Be Nice and Go Away EPs demonstrated yet more, and felt like a band really finding their voice.
The self-titled album takes that voice and adds to it a consistency that can’t be argued with. There were bands on Top Of The Pops – bands who sounded a little like this – who couldn’t hold a candle to this stuff.
Therein lies the ultimate truth of Milk Teeth. We don’t deserve them. But we sure need them.
Milk Teeth is out now on Music For Nations.