Harvey Milk's A Small Turn of Human Kindness: Not a Happy Story

Harvey Milk

A Small Turn of Human Kindness (Hydra Head)

It usually doesn't do to read too much into song titles, but consider this string from the new Harvey Milk album: "I Just Want to Go Home," "I Am Sick of All This Too," "I Know This Is No Place for You," "I Alone Got Up and Left," "I Know This Is All My Fault," "I Did Not Call Out." There's a story here, and though you'd be hard pressed to decipher it from Creston Spiers' trademark pained bellows, it ain't a happy one. That's in keeping with the music on the sui generis heavy band's latest, wherein it forsakes the more outgoing rock-song forms of recent releases for a dirge-y extended wallow-cum-concept LP.

The overture-esque intro "*" (the one title that doesn't sound like a depressive late-night confession) rolls right into the aforementioned order of titles, with the dive-bombing guitar, plodding drums, and hand-of-doom bass thuds on "I Just Want to Go Home" firming up the album's sleet-gray sonic palette. The music grinds on, with no break between songs, until something like an actual melody appears on "I Know This Is No Place for You," buoyed by the leaky chords of a faint keyboard. The crushing slo-mo guitar grind continues, only to lift again on "I Know This Is All My Fault," as tentative synth chords give way to tumbling guitar chords, which give way to plaintive piano tinkles and Spiers emoting in the barest hope-no-one-hears-me whisper. The final track resolves the mood, and the album, with a progression of crashing chords and harmonized descending riffs, never more peppy than walking speed.

A Small Turn's title and tale jumps off from a track and a bit of text included on HM's 1996 debut album, and that's worth keeping in mind when enduring the new album's travails. A relationship burn-down scored for slo-mo sludge isn't exactly going to be a no-brainer buy-in, even for fans, but Harvey Milk has been known to be ahead of its time before.