While listening to Milk Teddy’s debut full-length LP, Zingers, you might feel the natural urge to articulate the exact sound you are hearing by drawing comparisons to it, or thumbing through an ever-thickening glossary of sub-genres. This is a completely healthy inclination, I assure you. But when a band is concocting sounds complex enough to span chasms between pop, punk, indy, new-wave, and psychedelic genres simultaneously, you have to kind of wonder if you’re wasting your time with labels. So then, my fellow music nerds; I implore you to seize this opportunity in letting me waste my time with the rhetoric and label-making. That should buy you enough extra time to just listen to the damn thing and unwind a bit, while I grope for the messy fragments of meaning that are as temporal as they are evident in Zingers.
Hailing from the unexpectedly robust psych-pop ‘micro-scene’ of Melbourne, Australia, comes Milk Teddy, a five-piece Indy-pop set with a profound reverence for experimentation. After earning considerable praise for the initial release of their Going to Sri Lanka 7″, and self-titled cassette, Milk Teddy’s debut LP, Zingers, is an anticipated launch among the Melbourne scene. Co-released by The Lost and Lonesome Recording Co., and Knock Yr Socks Off Records, you get the feeling that Milk Teddy and their fan base aren’t the only ones who knew Zingers would fare well.
Zingers opens up strong with a heavily layered, pop infused, title track that sets the stage for the rest of the album by capitalizing on abundant distortion and reverb effects, while still maintaining a keen sense of balance aesthetically. “Suburbs Mystery,” is an easy going song to sway to; the emotionally soothing vocals of lead singer Thomas Mendelovits hang listlessly in the air while layers of shimmering guitar strokes emanate vibrantly among the steady drum line. Mendelovits’ lyrics aren’t completely discernible much of the time, but they have a gentle quality that manages to pack quite a punch. The third track on Zingers, “I Can Hear it When You Sing,” demonstrates skillful song-building through intensive layering techniques. At one point, dense layers of distortion, melody, reverb, and seemingly random sound-bites peak into a disorienting collage of noise that engulfs the listener; then, as if the floor is dropped from beneath your feet, they bring you back to a coherent melody with full force as everyone excitedly strokes their instruments like savage children. These transcendental moments occur all throughout Zingers, and Milk Teddy’s ability to transform space and time so skillfully without ever musically hiding behind the heavy doses of distortion, makes them a psychedelic dynamo.
“Going to Sri Lanka,” builds slowly into a wavy, upbeat soundscape evocative of memory and place; Mendelovits’ vocals take the forefront of the sound like a zen tenor as he belts out, ‘Everything is sacred when I’m going to Sri Lanka.’ “Porcelain Skin,” features heartwarming parts from the accordion and keyboard, laced potently with long, throbbing electric synth textures, muted bass drum, and high-hat splashes that culminate several crescendos of saintly proportions. “XTC,” pairs a punk rooted drum tempo with acid surf riffs and abstract sound samples to set the albums peak before winding down a bit.
Tracks seven and eight, “Secret,” and “Michael,” are both casual grooves that depart from some of the needier pop sounds heard earlier, in favor of unconcerned arrangements that still maintain a candid sense of liveliness. “Night Worker,” and “Come Around,” close the album out with a nonchalant vibe that is slow and emotional, but energetic. There is a sense of confidence and comfort that becomes apparent in the layers of instrumental dialogue toward the end, and the assertive undertones occur more from the ease of their compositional wit then the true nature of their sound which is both gentle, and giant.
All and all, Zingers is an undeniably mature debut LP’s from a band of visionary noise makers. Their sound adds up to a vibrant and colorful combination of humor, romance, and play that commands a remarkable thing-ness in its essence– as if the songs are living and breathing and coming together before your very eyes. For a group with a reputably dirty sound, their compositions are highly articulate, sonically complex, and emotionally compelling. It took me a minute to digest Milk Teddy, but now that I have, I am certainly hungry for more.