Milton and the Devils Party play a brand of alternative rock that is reminiscent of Elvis Costello and all the perfect car-driving tunes of the earliest days of the nineties. The recording on “What Is All This Sweet Work Worth?” is not the lush-ness expected from bands in this current day and age, but rather the quiet and septic mix of bands like Harvey Danger and The Pixies. The fury that is skillfully restrained on a track like “Perfect Breasts” shows the skill of a band that is so impressive that one tends to discount their music as being overly simple. “Heathen Eden” shows the intensity brought to the track by Daniel, both in terms of intricate bass lines and smoothed-out vocals. Milton an the Devils Party create an extraordinary disc-long composition, owing much to the similar sound espoused by the vast majority of tracks on “Sweet Work Worth?”. What sets MatDP off from the rest of the bands that play the same general laid-back style of alternative/indie rock is the tongue-in-cheek style of many of the lyrics (and song titles; “Perfect Breasts” and “Ugly American” come to mind).
Still though, there isn’t much to “WiATSWW” beyond the immediate gratification that the sugary-sweet guitar lines and angelic vocals laid down by Daniel. The bass comes back to life during “Not to Talk”, aiding the eighties-era Cure guitar lines, but this is more of the exception than the rule. “Ugly American’s” main fault is the tendency of Daniel to fit too many lyrics into one breath, creating a staggered sound that is completely out of place anywhere else on the disc, much less the track in question. The disc is extraordinarily circular – almost more of a nod to Dante’s than Milton’s work. Each track is episodic; everything starts back at the beginning and nothing is ventured, nothing gained.
Don’t get me wrong – some of the tracks are beautifully rendered (To Jane), but the laid-back nature of this disc is more enervating than inspiring. The recording is spot-on, the musicians and arrangements are impeccable but there is never a spark that whips listeners into a frenzy. Elvis Costello was able to make music that is still as fresh as when it first came from eir guitar but it had that infusion of soul, infusion of common, everyday life – something that this Ph.D.-led band just can’t seem to wrap their heads around.
Top Tracks: Have You Been Around? , Perfect Breasts
Milton and the Devils Party – What is All This Sweet Work Worth? / 12 Tracks / http://www.miltondevilsparty.com / Reviewed 10 February 2005