The history of rock and roll is endlessly cyclical, with each generation hitting "reset" and trimming the fat of a previous generation's indulgences, getting back to what is essential and absolutely needed. Which triggers a certain existential quandary, especially after said reset button has been hit, Lost-like, so many times by so many different cohorts: is any of this rock-and-roll stuff really "essential and absolutely needed"? Answer: of course not! Except that it's the futile quest that's the thing, especially when the end result is a record as bracing and electrifying as the 2003 sophomore outing by Boston noiserock unit Milligram, who packed so much sheer blinding emotional fury into This Is Class War that they had no choice but to break up before it even came out.
Milligram vocalist Jonah J. Jenkins had fronted larger bands before: he had held the mic for New England metal legends Only Living Witness, and had famously walked from a major label deal with emo-tinged punk titans Miltown. But Milligram might be his most crucial crew, if only for the way they stabbed a hole in Boston's then-complacent stoner-rock pusspocket.
"I was personally tired of being associated with bands channeling Sabbath," is how Jenkins put it to me on the eve of Milligram's two-night re-emergence (night one is the initial line-up: Bob Maloney on bass, Darryl Shepard on guitar, Zeph Courtney on drums; night two is the Class War lineup with Jeff Turlik on bass). "We were way more about Japanese psych garage like Mainliner and High Rise." Milligram's initial dissolution was, according to Jenkins, "the result of certain personal intra-band dynamics, just stressors that didn't need to be there. And during the songwriting sessions when we had frustrations, where we each might have wanted to contribute something; it resulted in odd time signatures and weird counts of how many times you'd repeat a riff." This off-balance feeling is there right from the start of album opener "Let's Kill," a yawning chasm of lurching scuzz-guitar, as bass, drums, and vocals all fumble to find a hold until, dizzyingly, the whole thing finds a way to crescendo into sheer rock oblivion.
In a sense, Milligram's quick exit from existence fit into their overall aesthetic: both of their records were quick punches, and their live shows were notoriously brief. "Zeph said, 'Let's call ourselves Milligram as a metaphor for a potent but very small dose of music.' And that made me happy, because if you can do it in a minute or two and it's good, why ruin it for everybody? If you can play a set in 12 minutes that will blow everyone away, why play for an hour?"
MILLIGRAM :: Great Scott, 1222 Comm Ave, Allston :: October 13 + 20 @ 9 pm :: 21+ :: $12 : 617.566.9014 or greatscottboston.com