Review ·

It's probably not the reason the band members borrowed Schlitz beer's slogan, but What Made Milwaukee Famous and the "beer that made Milwaukee famous" share at least one overriding character trait: better in small amounts.

 

Formerly known simply as Beer, What Made Milwaukee Famous retained a beer theme for its name, which doesn't exactly call to mind Guinness's advertising cartoon's solitary response. ("Brilliant!") Hailing from Austin, Texas, the band comes forth with a collection of various rock 'n' roll sounds we've been hearing for years. With a mix of catchy hooks and soft guitar lines supporting Michael Kingcaid's indie-prototype vocals, the sound is reminiscent of many legitimate bands (Wilco, Spoon, and the Shins) are a few of the bands What Made Milwaukee Famous is often compared to).

 

Trying to Never Catch Up is a remastered version of a 2004 album with four additional songs. The addition of only four songs in the two years between releases raises a few questions about the members' enthusiasm for songwriting. Of course, any band that emerges from Austin's crowded music scene certainly doesn't arrive upon the national stage without distinguishing itself in some form.

 

Any three of the album's tracks could be chosen at random and consumed with the same pleasure as the first three cold ones from a case of Schlitz. The third song, "Hellodrama," is the album's first standout, and it's also where the album starts to either exude a really calming buzz or where the headache starts to overcome the fun of intoxication. "Oh, Charlena," Kingcaid shouts after a blasé set of rants about girlfriend woes, "maybe you should write this down so we could get it right next time around." Want to hear more clichés? Enter the second half of the chorus: "No Charlena. It's not as simple as it sounds to keep your feet planted on common ground."

 

"Hopelist" is Kingcaid's most profound moment on the album. He croons over his soft guitar with a tranquility that recalls the Shins' "New Slang." The first couple songs, "Idecide" and "Mercy, Me" use a keyboard that jumpstarts the album's start along the lines of a marriage between ELO and Joy Division. This sparkle fades as the lack of anything original becomes a glaring error in "Sweet Lady," during which Kingcaid shouts a hundred times: "I can't help thinking that you love somebody but me."

 

The sing-alongs abound and the keyboard definitely calls for some attention from the dance floor, but the redundancy of these twelve songs is bound to induce a few headaches.

 

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Band (audio/video): http://www.whatmademilwaukeefamous.com/

Label: http://www.barsuk.com/

Audio: http://www.myspace.com/whatmademilwaukeefamous

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