Some bands you listen to because you enjoy them, some bands you listen to because you think they’re interesting. Some bands you listen to because they’ve influenced others and you want to hear why, and some bands you listen to because you just have to find out what the fuck the big deal is. The latter is my experience with Harvey Milk, who since their 2006 reunion and subsequent releases on Hydra Head have officially become the rock the cool kids dig. When the chance came up for me to check out A Small Turn of Human Kindness, the latest from the Athens, Georgia, trio, I more or less popped it on just to see what it was all about. I remember seeing Harvey Milk open for Khanate in NYC a few years back, and I remember being neither over nor underwhelmed, but whatever, maybe something’s changed.
Not really. A Small Turn of Human Kindness sounds like a genuinely cerebral exercise, so it probably isn’t. Creston Spiers, Kyle Spence and Stephen Tanner present the album as one long piece, with various misanthropic titles spread across seven tracks, ranging from “I Just Want to Go Home” and “I Alone Got Up and Left” to the ominous “I Did Not Call Out.” As the vocalist and guitarist, Spiers leads the way through the songs, which lumber with a heavy foot in and out of doomed minimalism, feedbacked solos, and a spiritually downtrodden demeanor that feels genuine enough to get by tagged “authentic.” Tanner’s bass tone is low the way you think of trenches, and Spence’s drums are perfectly suited to accenting the best of both his bandmates. It’s not surprising, since Harvey Milk has been around long enough for A Small Turn of Human Kindness to be their seventh album with the band having broken up and gotten back together, but as power trios go, they more than earn their name. For its consistency of mood alone, A Small Turn of Human Kindness is unrelentingly heavy.