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Collapse Board, the site run by Kurt Cobain's ex-tennis doubles partner Everett True (or whoever he is), recently ran a review of the new Pixies record based only on its title. From this alone, True contended it could be ascertained that Indie Cindy's music was complacent, uninspiring, throwaway, demeaning, cynical, lazy, etc., etc. He wasn't wrong.





One might apply the same test to the new Music Blues record, with far more positive results. With its delicious fusion of dark humour and pathos, Things Haven't Gone Well is the album-title equivalent of an acute Woody Allen zinger or poignant Peanuts cartoon. Iconoclast True has also experimented with reviewing albums by their front cover. The cover of Things Haven't Gone Well is a photograph of a grimly soiled sink, with rank cigarette butts piled in one of its corners. You can tell this record isn't going to contain any EDM dancefloor bangerz. You can tell there won't be any guest raps from Nicki Minaj. You can tell it hasn't been produced by Ian Broudie of the Lightning Seeds. More likely, it will be bleak and it will be heavy. There's still sweetness though, in the form of that sorry gator-shaped soap dish in the top-right corner. And there's still hope, in the form of the soap bar itself. This sink's tenant may be flirting with the idea of smoking himself into cancerous oblivion while abandoning socially-acceptable hygiene standards altogether, but he's still buying soap. For the time being. He's still washing. There must be something that keeps him hanging on.

Music Blues is the solo project of Stephen Tanner, of cult sludge-rockers Harvey Milk, and as its title and cover indicate Things Haven't Gone Well is phat, slow, dark, depressive, grubby and despondent but, crucially, not entirely despairing.

Harvey Milk first split in 1998 due to disinterest from public and industry alike. Though their discography is lauded by a select few, unlike fellow decelerated metallers Melvins, Sunn O))), Earth, or Neurosis, HM never quite attracted the commercial or critical success they deserved. They reformed in 2006, earning greater acclaim for the records Life... The Best Game In Town and A Small Turn Of Human Kindness but then their label, Hydra Head, went bust. Them's the breaks.

Tanner wrote the music for Things Haven't Turned Out Well while crashing on his bandmate Creston Spiers' couch in 2010. Tanner had no home. He'd split with his girlfriend. He was depressed. He was mourning the tragic untimely death of his friend Jerry Fuchs, drummer of !!!. Tanner would spend his days drinking and watching Beverly Hills 90210 reruns for six hours a day. He thought he was writing the next Harvey Milk album, but with his group on permanent or temporary hiatus (nobody really seems to know, not least the band members themselves), Tanner's project turned into... this... thing.

This thing's concept is Tanner's life, from birth until now. The title of the first track is the date of his birth, and from there Tanner moves through subsequent jollities including 'Premature Caesarean Removal Delivery', 'Hopelessness and Worthlessness', 'Great Depression', and 'Failure', soundtracking each stage of his miserable existence with a near-flatline of sluggish instrumental riffery. More than just an wordless Harvey Milk demo tape, the LP evokes the similarly crushing work of onetime 'Milk member Joe Preston who's also played in Melvins, and the solo work of another ex-Melvin, Mark Deutrom.

As doggedly one-dimensional as Tanner's traipsing guitars purport to be, however, the album is not as suffocating as, say, Earth 2 by Earth. It's got drums, for a start. Slow drums, but drums nonetheless. Only a couple of tracks pass the five-minute mark. Some of the riffs have a moderately lighter liveliness serving to elevate them from utter disheartened catatonia, for example on 'Trying and Giving Up'. And how serious are we supposed to take this exhaustion-projecting title? How serious are we supposed to take others like it, such as 'It's Not Going To Get Better' or 'Tremendous Misery Sets In' (both positioned towards the end of the record, amusingly).

Harvey Milk were prone to covering Leonard Cohen songs. While there may be much discrepancy between that baritone balladeer and his hairy noise-rocking admirers, the two are kindred spirits. What saves Leonard Cohen from actually being that stereotyped peddler of "music to slit your wrists to"? It's his humour. So funny are (some of) Cohen's lines that veteran alt-comic Arthur Smith once dubbed Cohen "the greatest comedian of the twentieth century." Humour is the redeeming light that shines through the gross cracks.

Incidentally, what's both the grossest and funniest thing in the world? No, not sex. It's poo, right? The vinyl version of Things Haven't Gone Well is pressed in the limited edition exclusive incentive colour of "shit brown". Come on, that is funny. I'm pretty sure it's laughter that keeps Tanner hanging on.

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