Isadora Records, 2010
By Jake Shenker
Hawksley Workman’s newest album Milk, the euro-pop companion to January’s fiercely gritty Meat, is a polarizing record. While devotees of Workman’s less accessible (albeit genius) early work have dismissed his more recent forays into pop-rock – 2003’s Lover/Fighter and 2008s Los Manlicious, in particular – those who thrive on the songwriter’s mercurial nature have continued to support his flights of fancy, and relish in the surprising direction of each new release.
Most recently, Milk finds Workman in enemy territory, slinging curses and lackluster lyrics over electronic beeps, synthesizer leads and B-52s-esque backup vocals. As the twelfth installment in an inspiring body of work, Workman’s newest disc feels like a leap backward from his earlier gems.
But if comparisons to the output of a younger Workman are put aside, Milk stands up tall as a collection of excellent songs for a different audience.
Produced and partially performed by Swedish musician Marten Tromm, the songs comprising Milk were conceived in part through Workman’s efforts to compose hit songs for artists like Kylie Minogue.
And hit songs these are: insidious melodies and foot-stomping beats are constructed into huge, over-the-top productions of pop fancy. With memorable hooks and but a few missteps – the confusing and aimless “Google Jesus,” for one – almost any track has the potential to climb the pop charts, given the right push.
While Lover/Fighter was a purposeful stab at yielding a pop-rock hit, Milk is Workman’s best chance of attaining pop stardom. And, contrary to what most critics preach, there are far worse things than releasing a vacuous collection of fun and blatantly catchy tunes. Milk may not be another For Him and the Girls, but it’s currently on heavy rotation in my stereo.