Recording: Totally fun, totally cool, and totally bright enough for plastic Wayfarers.
Some people would say that it’s a cop-out to write about bands whose members you know personally. But I was told by Mr. Merrick, my mustachioed (and, alliteratively enough, mandolin-toting) third-grade teacher that you should always write what you know. Which explains why all of the stories I wrote in elementary school were either about Star Wars or my friends. Or, as in one case, about my friends in the Star Wars universe (which was SO COOL). So here I am, with Mr. Merrick’s advice in mind, about to write about a band which hails from my own beloved Bowdoin College, The Milkman’s Union.
The first time I saw The Milkman’s Union live, they were opening for Ben Kweller in an on-campus gig. It was the big winter concert on campus, but it seemed like the group planning the event had made choosing on opener an afterthought, with only a very perfunctory vote going into choosing the act. Suffice to say, this was no honor. Nor is the music of the Milkman’s Union particularly suited for the sort of crowd Ben Kweller attracted that night (read: kids who really liked that song “Falling” from the Mr. Deeds soundtrack)*. The lukewarm reception they had received prior to the show and upon arriving on stage led me to a preliminary disinterest, which was furthered by a cover of Radiohead’s “National Anthem.” They did the song justice, but it’s hard to get very excited by a college band performing covers. Then some horrible, worst-nightmare potentially-big-gig-ruining snafu occurred. I think the bassist broke a string or three, which, as I understand it, is damn hard to do. This left the lead singer of Milkman’s Union, Henry Jamison-Root, on stage alone with his acoustic guitar. After mumbling around for a couple minutes, he introduced a song called “June June June,” and the crowd sat down as he played it alone. At the time, I thought it was the most beautiful song I’d ever heard.
I went home and immediately bought the song on iTunes and listened to it on repeat until it was the top-played song in my library. I’m usually not one to either listen to songs on repeat or rave about lyrics I like, but this was just so good. The imagery was vivid, a perfectly self-aware teenage love story full of angst, over-enthusiasm, overcommitment, awkward conversation, and a twist of underage drinking (“she always found us alcohol, though I never asked her how, and we’d pour it in our orange juice and I’d wince as it went down”). Several months later, running into Henry at a gathering in a friend’s apartment, I blurted out an unthought confession of how much I loved it, and was pleasantly surprised when many of the people around me agreed. Turns out he wrote the song when he was 17. I think I’d be mortified if people I didn’t know very well were evaluating anything I’d done at age 17. Except maybe if they were watching the video of that time I put two pouches of Big League Chew in my mouth at once, and continued to chew it until it lost all its flavor, which is quite a feat considering the long-lasting flavor of the official gum of MLB. But I digress.
The Milkman’s Union has been hard at work (intermittently) on what will be Henry Jamison-Root’s 3rd album, his first with the current line-up of the band. I emailed him to find more out about it, but apparently he’s too busy reading Derrida and Foucault to pay any attention to his computer. For now, we’ll just have to enjoy his 17-year-old compositions. I’m happy with it this way, and hopefully you will be, too.
June June June – The Milkman’s Union (mega
Leaves – The Milkman’s Union (mega
July 4th – The Milkman’s Union (mega
I’d recommend buying Oh Boy
, though either album
is a strong choice. And if you discover you love “June June June” like I do, buy it on iTunes. Send that thing straight to #1 on their “most popular” list.
*This is not to disrespect Ben Kweller, just the cross-section of students he happened to attract. In fact, the man puts on a helluva show, and is one of the nicest people you’ll meet. Also, his new album rocks.