You aren't supposed to judge a book by its cover, but with today's iPods and mp3s and the vast availability of online music, the decision between buying an album and downloading it may depend not entirely — but a great deal — on the cover art. The cover does not make or break a record, but it can make or break its sales figures.
Not only is cover art a prestigious business for aesthetically inclined individuals; for the band, it constitutes the face of its record — the two-dimensional, five-by-five medium through which the band's sound is to be presented, defined and, most importantly, advertised. While the Velvet Underground chose Andy Warhol and Pink Floyd the prism, Planeside went for milk.
Now milk can be associated with a lot of things, like cows, cookies, cereal, breasts and cheese, but rock 'n' roll? Apparently so, because the sophomore album of New York rock band Planeside is titled, in true mammary-gland spirit, Milk, and the front cover features the back of a truck full of milk cartons.
Any attempt to relate the title and cover to the actual album can easily be abandoned after one listen, since the album, as defined on the band's website, is about "keeping up with an experienced woman's overly sexed libido and grilling one's head beyond all recognition."
So is this an attempt to redefine rock 'n' roll, replacing the beer with gallons of milk and a pure and healthy lifestyle? Looking at the band's picture, with its three members dressed in black with ripped arms and grave facial expressions, it seems reminiscent of a "Got milk?" advertisement. Rock stars drink milk, too! Or perhaps it was their wittier side that wanted to have a website announcement on the release date that said "Milk in stores today!!!" The cover may remain an unsolved riddle, but no use crying over spilled milk (which is incidentally on the back cover) because, apart from a truckload of calcium, this album also delivers some rock.
With rock's contemporary multiplication into an immense set of sub-genres, the classic realm of pure rock has often been subdued and hidden from the spotlight and perhaps considered a deed of the past. Planeside wants to change this and return to the pure slinky riffs and growling vocals of rock 'n' roll past.
Their sophomore release, Milk, is a 10-track, energy-packed rock album with clear '90s influences. Planeside refers to itself as a rock 'n' roll power trio and seems to take pride in being a three-piece. And, as for most trios making rock music, there is no question about who does what. While other bands consciously struggle to resist being confined to genre labels, Planeside has taken an eager hop into its allotted box with the prototypical guitar-bass-drums lineup and settled comfortably there.
Insofar as trying to sound like rock, Planeside is successful. Though the bass occasionally borders on punk, there is no question Planeside is anything other than rock 'n' roll. This is maybe where they fall short. The guitar riffs are mostly rock, though they sometimes fall disappointingly into the realm of punk. And though the drummer seems to know what he is doing, he delivers basic rock beats and fails to add edge to the sound.
Most stereotypically rock 'n' roll is Dave Harris' vocals, which he himself has referred to as colored by cigarettes and all-nighters. This turns out to be a most striking description and a reflection of the singer's self-awareness.
At least there is no biting identity crisis or internal drama getting in the way of the band's progress. Sometimes, though, it seems Planeside is taking the easy way out, and though "easy" may produce acceptable results, it can never be the exceptional, groundbreaking movement they admired in their precursors.
Bands that try to sound like their favorite bands usually are not the best ones out there, and this is true for Planeside. The result is a tolerable but trite replica that one would not replace the original with unless absolutely necessary. It's like settling for soy instead of the real deal.
Rating: 2 out of 5