1979: The Pop Rivets, a Canterbury group of devoted acolytes to punk’s gritty DIY ethos, release Greatest Hits, home-recorded and enclosed in handmade sleeves (later repressed in printed covers; later still retitled for its Hangman reissue). A more mod-oriented and less reserved TV Personalities or Desperate Bicycles, the Rivets (aka Rivits) retrospectively fit neatly in with the sloppy, violent pop noisemeisters of the era, endearingly careless (though even the best songs leave mere flesh wounds as opposed to the scars inflicted by their more prominent contemporaries).
Empty Sounds from Anarchy Ranch consolidates the band’s sound into a tamer, more controlled — albeit equally ill-tempered — punk stew. While Fun in the U.K. is a compilation drawn somewhat randomly from both LPs, Live in Germany ’79 simultaneously nods deeper to their UK punk basis and points up their obvious (again in retrospect) trash ’60s roots and attitudes — all recorded in glorious monoloudarama.
1981: Talking ‘Bout Milkshakes, the debut LP by Chatham’s Mickey and the Milkshakes, limps into stores. “Mickey” is guitarist M. Hampshire; he and bassist Banana Bertie (both former Rivets roadies) had formed the band to do opening slots at Rivets gigs but recombined with two of their former employers — Rivets drummer Bruce Brand and guitarist Billy Childish — when the headliners split. Discovering a chemistry (particularly in the Hampshire/Childish tagteam), they sat back and calmly began writing and performing a song every other minute. But only when fueled by excessive alcohol. Meaning only 22-1/2 hours a day.
1982: With ex-Rivet Russ Wilkins replacing Bertie on bass, 14 Rhythm & Beat Greats (recorded in Germany on borrowed money) showcases a band more in dynamic control and confident of their direction. Distinct echoes of the Kinks and assorted forgotten US garages begin to reverberate in the vinyl canyons.
1983: After School Session offers a somewhat tempered ‘Shakes, playing familiar covers (like Bo Diddley’s “Cadillac” and “I Can Tell”) and chummy originals with all the verve but none of the previous grit. The Milkshakes IV is an instrumental album that calculatedly sidesteps their “career,” consisting instead of Link Wray-influenced dark chord/riff-rockers.
1984: Having hit their stride (and quickly surpassing it), the Milkshakes finagled the same-day release in March of four different albums in three separate countries. Showcase, the US debut, pits a pair of unreleased tunes against a dozen more culled from prior LPs. In Germany is a rowdy and stylistic representative collection of new originals. Nothing Can Stop These Men is a less rambunctious variation of same, while 20 Rock and Roll Hits of the 50’s & 60’s consists of common classics (“Peggy Sue,” “Hippy Hippy Shake,” “Money,” etc.) and is a considerably less essential shot of partytude. Brand New Cadillac and Ambassadors of Love are both four-song 7-inches.
Although not issued until 1987, The Milkshakes’ Revenge! (or “The Legendary Missing 9th Album”) was the next to be recorded. Rather low-key and well-mannered, its greatest notoriety is as the debut release on Billy Childish’s Hangman Records & Books label.
With an extra “e” in their article and the ouster of Russ Wilkins (to be replaced by John Agnew), things are definitely on the upswing, with countless compilation appearances as well as a prominent lip-synch role in a garage rockumentary for British television. They Came They Saw They Conquered rocks as blearily and singlemindedly as anything preceding, but Thee Knights of Trashe really ignites where they previously only sizzled, with great songs (including an alternate version of the excellent “Out of Control,” written for the TV documentary), confident (if basic) playing and enormously complementary raw — yet detailed — production. Unfortunately it’s the last Milkshakes album proper, their tenth (eight all-original) in three years. The posthumous 107 Tapes — sleeved in a monumental interview — contains one LP of blisteringly ragged, painfully overdriven ’81 demos with the Prisoners’ bassist on loan and a disc of ’83 live-in-Germany drunken mayhem. If not quite the Milkshakes’ recorded apex, this package may nonetheless be the band’s most representative document.
Live from Chatham is cleaner and warmer, like your fondest bootleg tape, while Last Night at the M.I.C. is uncontrolled hysteria. Thee Milkshakes vs the Prisoners (recorded live in the studio) is pure libido on parade, and one of the band’s vinyl peaks. 19th Nervous Shakedown is a CD-only compilation and so far the only Milkshakes available to the post vinyl/tape generation.