Caribou: The Milk of Human Kindness

By now, Manitoba fans know all about the legal proceedings initiated by punk elder 'Handsome' Dick Manitoba over rightful usage of the band name, with Dan Snaith begrudgingly opting for a moniker change. Thankfully, based on the evidence of its sparkling sunburst vibe, any lingering bitterness hasn't spilled over onto The Milk of Human Kindness, Snaith's third album and forty-minute follow-up to the justly-lauded Up In Flames.

Snaith's Caribou music spans decades (even centuries, judging by the Renaissance-styled keyboard flavourings of “Lord Leopard” and harpsichord melody floating through the background of “Pelican Narrows”). Electronic enhancements position the album within the current era as do slamming hip-hop beats in “Lord Leopard” and “Pelican Narrows.” Still, though Snaith cites Animal Collective and Lightning Bolt as current inspirations, the Caribou sound harks back to earlier eras (a recorder of all things even surfaces during “Bees”) with its strongest ties to the ‘60s.

That period is strongly evoked by his buttery smooth vocals (in “Hello Hammerheads,” one even hears the opening notes of “Scarborough Fair” when the vocal enters, while the nice interweave at song's close nods to the Beach Boys) and his affection for psychedelic haze (check out the organ swirls on the marvelous “Yeti,” its buoyant rocking pulse punctuated by the pummeling attack of drum rolls). The phasing effects in “A Final Warning” and showers of Indian bells in “Brahminy Kite” similarly reference that time.

The Milk of Human Kindness also showcases Snaith's jones for percussive wallop. He adds a noisy layer of explosive drums to cacophonously boost “Bees,” includes rampaging military tattoos on “Brahminy Kite,” and works some ferocious drumming in amongst the rising and falling episodes of “A Final Warning.” In addition, he cleverly sequences the album with interspersed interludes of contrasting character (like the fleeting noise rave-up “Hands First” and ballad “Subotnick”). What's not to like about an album of psychedelic folk-pop and unhinged experimentalism infused by a mind as creatively open as the plains upon which his namesake grazes?

April 2005