What Made Milwaukee Famous
Reviewed by Christopher Gray, Fri., July 16, 2004
What Made Milwaukee FamousTrying to Never Catch Up
It's not exactly cool for an album to be challenging. Challenging implies difficulty, struggle weird angles. Given the present cultural aversion to anything off-kilter, challenging is likely dismissed out of hand. More's the pity, because Trying to Never Catch Up isn't an easy album to pin down. One minute it's off in mystical Radiohead territory; the next, everything lands in Sgt. Pepper's study, brass chorale and all. "Bldg. a Boat From the Boards in Your Eye" works as a fairly faithful parody of the Polyphonic Spree, all the while glowing with an identical twinkle in its eye. The exuberant "Hellodrama" twists together the Knack, XTC, and Grandaddy until nobody can keep a straight face. Others, like "Almost Always Never," "Selling Yourself Short," and "Around the Gills," hint at Pavement, Centro-matic, the Strokes, and Morrissey; never as hipster pastiche but through the sly winks of the keyboards and metronomic urgency of the guitars. Listen close and you'll even catch some crooning in there. Wistful and happy-go-lucky, brooding and slapstick, hopelessly sentimental and chronically enigmatic, Trying to Never Catch Up, this local quartet's full-length debut, succeeds on terms of its own devising. It's challenging in the best sense of the word because it raises the bar for every band with whom What Made Milwaukee Famous shares a stage.