With each passing year as a critic, it seems there are fewer and fewer new music moments instantly that seize the attention. Every sharp, gleaming needle found is remuneration for the endless, three-story haystacks one must root through to find them. Thus, the celebration for finding something that transcends the words “abundantly rich” is always going to seem a bit overboard. But who could help it when the find is UK trio The Milk & Honey Band and their lush, shimmering slice of pop-rock bliss, The Secret Life of the Milk and Honey Band?
With track after track of bountiful flourishes, the band’s Secret Life album focuses on the craft of songwriting and evokes everything one hopes for in a modern pop band. There's the new wave pathos of Finn Brothers projects (Split Enz/Crowded House) and XTC; the colorful Beatlesque psychedelics of Badfinger and Jellyfish; troubadourific tales like Hitchcock, Sexsmith and David Gray weave, moments of mod-inspired Byrds/Matthew Sweet jangle-rock… it’s all here in sweeping, iridescent and intelligent glory. Pop fans will feel like a kid in a candy store with such confectionery delights.
Sounds like such inspiration could get dithery and juvenile? You’re right to think so. Lesser acts have tapped the root of those trees without a sense of self or humor and have failed miserably. Michael Tubb (guitars), Richard Yale (bass) and Robert White (guitars/vocals) succeed because they don’t get all self-righteous in that “we’re gonna save rock and roll” way. Because of the more lighthearted tone, the chiming guitars, soaring vocal harmonies and heart-fluttering rhythms sound like they were all intentional, joyfully crafted and fun to create.
Never does this comes across better than on fanciful Sgt. Pepper-esque tracks “Boy From the Moon” and “Four Leaf Clover,” which sound absolutely timeless. In contrast, the celestial “Satellite” and surefire pop smash “Message” could make geniuses out of some determined Adult Alternative formatted radio stations across the US. With great three-part vocal harmonies driving acoustic guitars, “Message” could easily be the next “Barely Breathing” (Duncan Sheik) if some program director was resolute enough to promote them.
It all adds up to a blissful, “feel-good” pop rock entrée. Secret Life is a pure pop delight, and not merely some studio concoction masking itself as one. No wonder XTC’s Andy Partridge was so taken with these three that he signed them to his Ape Records label. Let's face it, Partridge is no slouch and obviously knows a good thing when he hears it. Take his word for it, and mine, too. If you're a fan of sweet, jangly pop goodness with a proper and sensible motive, you just can’t afford to miss this album. Any sweeter, my friends, and it would give you cavities.