So, originally the final installment of the Top 25 of the Decade was supposed to happen, but we’ve fallen a little behind on that. Instead, Cameron Philipp-Edmonds debuts today with a track-by-track review of What Made Milwaukee Famous‘s 2008 release What Doesn’t Kill Us.
What Made Milwaukee Famous, also known by the acronym “WMMF”, is an indie rock and pop band from the capital of Texas, Austin. The band’s members are Michael Kingcaid, Drew Patrizi, John Farmer, Jeremy Bruch, and Jason Davi. What makes this band interestingly unique is that every one of its members is credited with supplying vocals on their albums.
The band signed with Barsuk Records and has become prominent in the local Austin music scene since forming in 2002. The band’s name comes from Jerry Lee Lewis‘s “What’s Made Milwaukee Famous (Has Made a Loser Out of Me)“.
What Doesn’t Kill Us is WMMF’s sophomore release and was released in 2008, which is two years after their debut record, Trying to Never Catch Up first hit the shelves. The album didn’t get the band more looks, so much as their single “Sultan” did. If you only listen to one song on the album, check out “Sultan,” although the rest of the tracks on this record are worthy of your time.
Track 1: “Blood, Sweat and Fears”
To be honest, I was a little thrown off when I heard the intro to this one. It starts off a little heavy, but then goes to their usual indie pop voice. Overall, I don’t think the song is anything to write home about and personally wouldn’t have put it as the opening song. 3
Track 2: “Sultan”
This is their most popular song and for good reason: the song is golden. The flow of the beat is so smooth, while the lyrics are absolutely gripping. One of the staples of this song is the line “I have had less than my fair share of lucky breaks.” This makes the song easily relatable to most people. The song lights it up and I think is what makes up for the first song on the record. 5
Track 3: “Cheap Wine”
This is one of their slower songs but still has some really strong emotional value. The song is especially gripping if you have ever had a relationship that has gotten stale. The beat picks up to around the 1:30 mark and transitions into a solid song that was partially depressing to mostly uplifting. The only knock on this song is that it follows “Sultan”. 4
Track 4: “The Right Place”
This song made me begin to realize that relationships were a basis of most of their lyrics. The song is of pure indie pop flavor. “There is only so much I can take, before I start to feel I’m betrayed,” is the line that stood out to me the most in this song because the beat is so pop-tacular and up tempo, while there is some obvious pain in the lyrics. 4½
Track 5: “For the Birds”
This track, despite the songs preceding it, is fairly up tempo in its lyrics and beat. This song doesn’t really have as much unique value to it as the others, but is still worth a listen. 4
Track 6: “Self- Destruct”
Another strongly emotional song about relationships, and begins on the slow side with points in the song where there is only chimes and vocals. This aids the song as the beat will kick back in at times and makes the song not so utterly depressing. 3
Track 7: “Resistance St”
This song shows the band’s indie pop style as the beats border on a trance-esque mix. 3
Track 8: “Prevailing Wind”
This one picks up from the previously depressing pace of the songs and gives hints of influence from bands such as Coldplay. 3½
Track 9: “And the Grief Goes On…”
I like this track as it somewhat tells a story and freshens the album in it s posture of style. The song is catchy as the instruments playfully dance around the lyrics that are mostly up-beat and soothing. 4
Track 10: “To Each His Own”
Starts out with a solid Rock beat. It is about one of the most needed messages: to leave each to his own. The track is rooted in a classic rock stance that is catchy and lively. 4½
Track 11: “Middle of the Night”
This song is acoustic in flavor and resembles bands like Modest Mouse, Permanent Me, and Grant-Lee Phillips. 4
Track 12: “The Other Side”
Another acoustic guitar based song that began to remind me of Jack Johnson and some of his later and more emotionally stressing tunes. A good song, not great, but left me wishing the album would have ended more steadily. 3½
The album still leaves a lot to be desired but is definitely worth listening to. In actuality it’s fairly solid, and good for a change-up in your regular listening. “Sultan” hits it off well and then the record hits a major lull in comparison, but picks itself back up on the latter end of the album. Some catchy songs with solid replay value, but some of them become easily forgettable.
Overall: 3.5 / 5