Guitar muscle, ferocious drumming, commanding vocals, and hook-laden tunes: no sophomore slump here. Austin’s What Made Milwaukee Famous took its time with the follow-up to its 2004 debut, and it was a wise move. The hardworking foursome has sculpted its sound on the road. What Doesn’t Kill Us (Barsuk) demands your attention from the outset—the first two songs are as strong as any on the album—and while the focus drifts, power punches keep coming to reel you back in. WMMF is not distinctly original, but it plays its crunchy indie rock with the swagger of a band harboring a closetful of gold records. Much credit goes to vocalist Michael Kingcaid: His croon suits both the quiet and loud moments, and while, particularly in falsetto, he betrays his admiration for Radiohead’s Thom Yorke (not that there’s anything wrong with that), a band couldn’t hope for a better singer. He elevates the group’s more pedestrian turns, and at their best—on tracks like “Self-Destruct,” “Prevailing Wind,” and “Resistance St.”—he and his bandmates make absolute magic.
From the March 2008 Issue Subscribe