Another fine early Handsome Family record. The loud electric guitars of their debut, Odessa, have been turned down for this, their second album. There are also more of the country-tinged songs that would go on to dominate their sound, which means (one can say with the benefit of hindsight) that Milk and Scissors can be seen as a transitionary album between their debut and their third album, Through The Trees, on which they settled on their distinctive alt-country sound.
Fans of the mid to late era Handsomes are more likely to prefer this album to their debut but, what the hell, listen to them both, because those wonderful Brett Sparks melodies/Rennie Sparks lyrics were very much in abundance right from the beginning.
For many folk, I'm sure, life begins with Through the Trees, the album that won such well deserved acclaim and took off in the UK after a track featured on 'that' Uncut sampler. If you were worried that the Handsome's previous stuff wouldn't live up to that, or their most recent, glorious 'In the Air', then fear not, for this is every bit as good. There are no poor tracks, but some deserve a special mention. Sway along together to the lilting cowboy paean 'Drunk by Noon' - possibly the all time anthem to mediocrity with the deeply affecting chorus "Sometimes I flap my arms like a hummingbird, just to remind myself I'll never fly: Sometimes I burn my arms with cigarettes, just to pretend I won't scream when I die." Thrill to 'The House Carpenter's salutary tale, show-casing of Rennie Sparks seldom heard voice. 'Amelia Earhart vs. the Dancing Bear' is an upbeat sing-along recalling the last moments of the famous aviators life. Great poetry! However, the purchase price would still be a bargain were it only for 2 tracks that I believe should take pride of place in the esteem of anyone serious about this music/life business. First, the instrumental 'Puddin' Fingers'. No words of mine are sufficient to the task of describing this; its just magnificent. And then, on to one of, if not THE saddest, darkest, most tragic song ever written (and believe me, I've heard most of them!) 'Emily Shore 1819-1839' has been coughing up blood since the dogwoods bloomed. Join her, propped up on pillows, watching the snow fall, and trying, from her brief 17 years of life, to picture an end to it all. She does. The result is a song that seems to encapsulate the deepest essence of what the Handsome's do best. Bretts voice is perfect and this, to me, is just about the best thing Rennie has ever written. 'Twisted' is a word that frequently comes to mind when considering the songs of the Handsome family. This implies deformity, but the songs on this album and all those subsequent to it, are perfectly formed and shot through with a unique clarity that is a rarity indeed. The Handsome Family and their friends deserve to be fabulously rich. Please buy this stonker of a CD and help make this a reality.
Early and typically brilliant album of the distinctive handsome family, with thought provoking lyrics set to quite remarkable music seemingly so simple at first hearing but much more complex and layered than first appraisal. Brett Sparx has a formidable baritone voice with which to convey his excellent tunes, meanwhile Rennie is unobtrusively playing something usually in the background, quietly happy one might assume, that her sensitively intelligent lyrics are getting across. This is a remarkable combination and can't reccomend this or any of the other albums available, quite enough so please buy and do yourselves a favour.