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Harvey Milk

No, we're not talking about San Francisco's legendary "mayor of Castro Street" and late gay rights advocate, we're talking about a cloistered heavy rock outfit that's been hidden away in Georgia for the last few years, believe it or not. Actually, "heavy rock" might be a slightly misleading term to describe this trio, but there's really no better one, as their sound is virtually unclassifiable. It is definitely heavy -- very heavy, dominated by an obsession with low-end sludgy rumble a la Melvins. Like The Melvins, Harvey Milk is also incredibly slow, regularly testing the limits of the attention span with slowed-down tempos that are sometimes no more than a few beats per minute.

Wait, there's more. A lot more. At times Harvey Milk speeds up and launches into prog rock guitar riffing; at others, the band dabbles with classical motifs that give their sound a baroque quality which carries with it an emotional resonance entirely different from what one ordinarily expects from conventional rock. Most of the music is instrumental, but the vocal moments tend to be extraordinary, ranging from guttural fury to hushed introspection. Perhaps it's those quiet moments of breathy vocals and delicate strumming, which suddenly give way to bone-shaking power, that make Harvey Milk so totally unique. In any case, you'll be hard-pressed to find anything else out there that sounds quite like this.

Recognizing this, San Francisco's tUMULt Records has re-released Harvey Milk's super-limited 1997 double LP, Courtesy and Good Will toward Men, on CD. It's a bleak and beautiful seventy-minute affair, completely distinctive in its powerful dynamics and occasional surprising tenderness. The exhausting, ten minute epic "Pinnochio's Example" is the first song on that album.

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