It’s a novel idea to play rock music these days. Think about pop radio and then think about how many straight-forward rock artists reside within the fabric of those charts. There are very few. Sure, there are exceptions, but even those can be attached to special rules. Coldplay has an A-list singer. Twenty One Pilots are the product of a genre’s current fad. Others are the product of the country music boon. And then there’s Disturbed (really — that’s still a thing?).
Arguably the most recent band to succeed in this world is Kings Of Leon, which, of course, is the band that Baltimore quartet The Milestones sound like the most on their latest EP, “Honey.” Running only four songs at a little less than 15 minutes, it showcases the value in a type of rock that can’t be subcategorized with words like “pop” or “punk” or “hardcore” or “post”-anything. It’s exciting in its simplicity, lauded for its ability to maintain loyalty to a genre without compromise. These songs weren’t born out of cashing in; they were born out of a desire to … well … rock.
Let’s take them in order. Opener “Edgar Allen Poe” builds considerably for nearly half its 3:43 before drummer John Love eventually finds a nice groove in which to settle the rest of the band. Once the two minute mark is eclipsed, however, a dance beat kicks in and singer Alexander Wandres distributes his drawl in delicious ways thanks to the help of some slick production. It all eventually winds down to fade out in much the same ways it faded in, but not without leaving an impression that forces curiosity upon any listener.
That curiosity proves itself warranted as “U.F.O.” begins and guitarist Christopher Metz offers tasteful noodling over an upstroke that becomes increasingly dance-tastic as the track unfolds. Just check the pre-choruses that evoke disco drumming and funky six-strings. Once Wandres exclaims, “She’s like a U.F.O.!” to kick off each hook, it’s hard not to imagine a packed basement with rock kids shouting along. By the time Love runs through his makeshift drum soloing, the energy is already bleeding profusely from speaker to soul.
It’s the perfect setup for the EP’s best track, “Shadow Enemies.” Not only is it the most Kings-Of-Leon-ish thing here (and you can do with that what you want), but boy, does it move. Riding a feel that is just so warm and comfortable, it’s The Milestones at their most complete. Plus, it’s the song that features the most attention to detail, drum accents painting most every other line and guitar leads serving as essential seasoning to a wildly fulfilling four-course meal. It practically forces your head to bop from left to right with each measure.
And then there’s “True Love Never Waits,” which helps bring the curtain down. Pretty and slow, it’s the closest thing to a ballad here, which, on some level at least, works as a detriment to the work as a whole. Sure, we know these guys can craft melodic hooks, but considering the momentum of the first three songs here, “Waits” ultimately ends the set on a downer. Plus, it takes nearly a minute to fade into the body of the track, and when you have a collection this short, it’s hard not to hope for a lack of wasted space. Some may call it an act of versatility — and it is — but it’s also unnecessary.
Such is OK, though, when you consider what The Milestones are about and what “Honey” accomplishes. And what it accomplishes is a sense of reassurance that the traditional idea of a rock act still exists, and in fact, can thrive. There aren’t many bells and whistles here — just a group of really good players who write some really good songs. This stuff is a lot harder to actually accomplish than these guys make it seem and for that, they should be celebrated, for that, they should be respected.
So, yes. It’s a novel idea to play rock music these days. But it’s even better to do it with as much style, competence and energy as The Milestones do it here. And if true love never waits, then what, exactly, are you waiting for, Honey?
*** 3 STARS OUT OF 4 ***