For a debut album, The Milk’s mélange of ska and soul-infused rock comes off as effortlessly confident and assured. Ambience-wise, the album is rakishly, lad’s-night-out-at-the-pub cheerful – complete with lead guitarist’s Rick Nunn’s cigarettes-and-whiskey vocals. What’s really refreshing is how down to earth this Essex-based group is, and their complete lack of rockstar mentality – especially considering the fact that Tales From The Thames Delta might just turn out to be their ticket to fame.
Broke Up The Family, The Milk’s biggest hit, is melodic RnB/soul which gets your hips swaying sooner than you can realize. While, along with Hometown and (All I Wanted Was) Danger, they’re probably the album’s catchiest, the rest grows on you very quickly; I keep thinking it’d make great roadtrip album. Nothing But Matter’s gospel choir stylistics are a tongue-in-cheek background for its nihilist lyrics (“Every day is a reminder/ We ain’t nothing but some matter” – that’s some deep stuff right there, man). There’s some soulful piano in there as well, on Lay The Pain On Me (and rightfully so; to not have Nunn’s raspy voice sing the blues would’ve been a crime).
With so much quality material to pick from, the choice of promotional songs strikes as erratic – Chip The Kids and B-Roads were what I’d noted down as ‘album fillers’ on the first listen, while apparent black horses like Mr Motivator and Kimmi, Kimmi were what I’ve found myself humming after just one or two listens.
As if in alarm, though, that straightforward soul numbers aren’t inventive enough, Tales From The Thames Delta is peppered with odd acoustic effects here and there. They range from Pink Floyd-esque sounds of background conversations and faraway sirens in between songs (which work), to scratching, which sounds teeth-jarringly out of place on an album otherwise kept in an old school aesthetic. The Milk are better off sticking to what they’ve shown they’re good at: heartfelt, cheeky rock ‘n’ roll.