Milo Gore’s debut album is an authentic examination of the delicate balance between creativity and addiction
In the hazy days of the summer before the virus, independent artist Milo Gore decided it was finally time to set about recording a debut album How Do You Cope While Grieving For The Living. Like in the olden days, the band retreated to an isolated cottage in Bude, Cornwall to write and record. This marked a fitting moment of circularity, the five-piece having met – and formed the Milo Gore project – in the swells of Falmouth University just down the road. Though HDYC always intended to touch on topics increasingly in the spotlight, the group could never have anticipated just how universally relevant their release would prove to be twelve months later.
Sex, drugs and rock and roll has so frequently been the glamourised mantra of the rock star. However, as topics such as mental health and addiction increasingly work their way into the spotlight, it’s important we interrogate the assumptions that have previously glorified this balancing act between creativity and addiction. HDYC rips off the band-aid and shows just how wrong it can all go. Far from the stereotypically filtered movie personalities, the album tackles real, and deeply personal struggles. Album opener ‘Noise Gone Dancing’, is a typically gloomy start; Milo’s mumbling escalating into an unrelenting cacophony of guitars and drums. There’s just time to get your breath back, before ‘Green Eyes’ thunders into view. A more typical offering from the indie-rock category, it’s a rampant tune with little chance to catch your breath.
Although the pace can feel relentless at points, there is a real talent in how the group are able to measure weightier moments with opportunities for reflection. Vocally, there’s a fine balance between power and vulnerability which characterises the album. Although Milo might be the band’s axis, he’s rarely found alone in his thoughts. FARE, an artist in her own right having released ghostly EP ‘grow your hair out’ in June, adds a necessary layer of softness. Tender, yet often soaring, it’s a lethal combination of rawness and sincerity which prevents tracks from becoming melodramatic. ‘Jade’ is a well-executed duet, the trading of different narratives cleverly acknowledging that struggling relationships are often a two-way street.
Dwelling as they do on the past, long-term fans will be glad to hear that Milo Gore haven’t entirely laid old projects to rest. ‘Fare’ has long been a consistent concert-closer which has finally been given the high-quality definition it deserves. Indeed, the whole project draws some added steel from its high production quality. Although indie rock is a genre well suited – and often benefitting – from its rawness, this can sometimes be to the detriment of a listener’s ears. Produced by the experienced Pete Prokopiw (Florence and the Machine) and mixed by the talented Andy Savours (Arctic Monkeys), it’s of little surprise that the band’s debut feels like the group have graduated from their university beginnings with first class honours. This is particularly notable on ‘A Collaboration of Our Grief’. Teaming up with Falmouth’s Ronnie Cook, a masterful guitar solo will no doubt delight those who might have bemoaned that “UK guitar music is dead”.
While there’s no doubt about the seriousness of some of the topics under discussion, the album remains self-aware. Overwhelming at times, the sporadic ‘I Hear You’ replicates that feeling of not quite being in the room. It’s a smart use of irony which carries through to ‘Eyeliner’. A groovy bassline is almost impossible to resist moving to yet clashes with sharp wordplay which continues to detail a struggle of “living in fear everyday”. It’s not all overcast, however, “‘I’m just getting started” yells Milo in ‘Homegrown’, a positive outlier. Let’s hope so. It’s a track which, like album standout ‘Jerry Can,’ would have been well received on the planned UK tour scheduled to finish in Falmouth, unfortunately cancelled for obvious reasons. Although tracks like ‘Complete Peace’ might be about feeling “confused and indifferent”, the album’s relentless tempo means it’s not a depressing listen, but a thoughtful one. Indeed, album closer “The Endless War”, with its almost floral electric guitar rhythm, urges patience; “Focus your mind / it takes time”.
How do you cope while grieving for the living? It’s a tricky question to answer. The past few months have posed new challenges on a global scale, not least to those within the music industry. For an independent band like Milo Gore, the restrictions on live performances have been nothing short of devastating. Yet for so many, music has continued to be a comfort blanket, a necessary release from the stresses of modern life. To this end, HDYC, with its narrative peaks and troughs, is the perfect emotional outlet for difficult times.
Words by Adam Goldsmith