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What Doesn't Kill Us

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Album Review

In 2004, Austin's What Made Milwaukee Famous self-released their debut, Trying to Never Catch Up (later re-released in 2006 in a slightly different format on Barsuk), a hodgepodge of musical styles and influences that still managed to coalesce as a strong, catchy set. These same notions prevail with the band's second album, What Doesn't Kill Us, although the new songs (and inspirations) tend to drive the band away from power pop and toward more mainstream rock and pop territory. There are still some well-crafted pieces here — "Self-Destruct" has predictable yet fun vocal lines and breakdowns, "Sultan" is pure Spoon (when Britt Daniel is in his Billy Joel idolizing mode), and "Resistance St." draws from the ornate, undulating, horn-heavy style Beirut's Zach Condon has helped popularize and develop while still sounding original. On the second half of the album, "Prevailing Wind" and "And the Grief Goes On" rely on soft acoustic guitars and mainstream radio-ready melodies to guide them, and both "Middle of the Night" and "To Each His Own" depart from Big Star pop to mid-'90s "Sister Hazel at a campfire" stuff. What Made Milwaukee Famous clearly try to end What Doesn't Kill Us on a positive note (to contrast, perhaps, with the darker notions expressed earlier in the record), replacing their witty(ish) lyrics ("If you don't cut your losses before you get lost, they're never going to leave you alone," from "Sultan") with phrases like "Somewhere, in the middle of the night/Everything's going to be all right, all right" ("Middle of the Night") or "What's the use in hope if we're afraid of trying?" in the closer, "The Other Side."


Formed: 2003 in Austin, TX

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '00s, '10s

Hailing from Austin, TX, What Made Milwaukee Famous features Jeremy Bruch (drums), John Farmer (bass), Michael Kingcaid (vocals/guitar), and Drew Patrizi (keyboards). The indie rock quartet came together in 2003 to create a playful indie rock sound that's well suited for fans of Brendan Benson, Spoon, and the Wrens. In 2005, What Made Milwaukee Famous performed alongside Franz Ferdinand on Austin City Limits, becoming one of the few unsigned acts to play the celebrated PBS show. With additional showings...
Full Bio
What Doesn't Kill Us, What Made Milwaukee Famous
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