Milk The Fire, the debut album from Asian She reminds me of a lot of different things. A cross between Cracker and The Cure, perhaps? Failure, another LA alt-rock band comes to mind. The core of the band is Noah Lebenzon and Thomas Froggatt, who come from a large local family of intertwined band associations that includes connections to She Wants Revenge, VAST, and 12 Rounds. You can hear hints of all of that in this new project of theirs.
With all of those little sonic Easter eggs aside, a unique personality shines through clearly. Asian She’s signature trick is to perfectly balance highly danceable grooves and unabashed rock riffs on pop structures, side-by-side with a sort of bro-twee playfulness that places them out of reach of simple comparisons.
Rainbow Runner is a good choice for opening track in that it makes for a fairly representative first impression. It’s a little cute, a little noisy, and the lyrics are a little mean and a little emo, but never whiny. You looked good in that dress last summer, the chorus goes, A steady diet of rainbow runner. You were everybody else’s lover, running around like a hooker undercover. I have a real soft spot for that Placebo-esque bitchiness, when it doesn’t come off as insecure. And what masterful rhyming.
Most of the tracks feature shades of that sort of occasionally juvenile revenge poetry, or its natural counterpart, the sort of happy raving that soaks the ostensibly cute love song 10 Years. But it’s all counterweighted by hooks and hits. The riffs can be downright vicious. These aren’t teeny-bopper hipsters jerking around with Casios. Lebenzon busts out respectable, squealing solos on some of the heavier tracks, like 6-17 and My New Lover, both of which are standouts, and no-brainer summer mixtape fodder.
Sad Sac is another highlight, at least as representative a grab-bag as the opening track. It’s got a little bit of everything Asian She uses most effectively on the album, with electronic melodies and a simple drum machine beat leading into surprisingly masterful guitar work, which builds into a fiercely catchy groove, and a veteran-quality solo, one of the album’s many impressive displays of maturity.
Overall, Milk The Fire is a consistent full-album listen, its few odd deviations holding up well enough in context. Wish It Happened To You is exactly what you’d get if the Kids In The Hall theme got together with The Cure’s Lovesong. A Moment Of Fontrom is a mostly instrumental oddball, a weird twist of mariachi-tinged surf rock that’s just fearlessly creative and uncool enough to work.
Above all, after all of the names have been dropped, after we’re all done smirking at the little nods to classic influences, what we’re left with is more than just a collection of cool familiar sounds; at the core, Milk The Fire is an impressive alt-rock record with a unique personality and catchy pop structures that keep bringing you back, in a way that most records (let alone debuts) are capable of.
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An impressive alt-rock record with a unique personality and catchy pop structures that keep bringing you back, in a way that most records (let alone debuts) are capable of.