…this isn’t a debut full-length. Not that it’s been teased or implied yet, but with where Hot Milk are now as demonstrably one of the UK’s premier pop-rock exports, there’s never been a better time for it. Though that’s been true from the start, right when Awful Ever After earmarked them as a band ready to take their scene by storm right out of the gate, which they’ve proceeded to do with frankly staggering prolificness. It’s not just any old pop-rock band from Manchester who performs on Jimmy Kimmel before they’ve even got a full body of work out; Hot Milk are just that effective at exuding star power, to where another EP can cast a bit of a tentative shadow for them. But for a band for whom a miss isn’t even in the vicinity of their vocabulary, it goes without saying that The King And Queen Of Gasoline is by no means a backslide, or even a safe victory lap. This is Hot Milk continuing to hone and refine, perhaps still unable to square up to how much of a shot of light their debut Are You Feeling Alive? was, but not by much. They’ve got a couple of their most arena-ready cuts to date in the title track and The Secret To Saying Goodbye, now adorned with the sweep and bluster to put them on par with those huge acts they’ve rubbed shoulders with since the start. The crunch of the recent work isn’t gone either, as recent singles Teenage Runaways and Bad Influence have shown, but …Gasoline on the whole is a bigger, more emboldened work. It’s not necessarily cleaner—they’ve always been good at cultivating a pop focus without totally lopping off the features of a rock band—though it does feel more sleekly put together, now with strings and a touch of saxophone to splash some more colours onto the dense canvas. For a band who’ve never been without confidence, …Gasoline feels the most like Hot Milk embracing modern rockstar status, as they’ll go bigger and bolder in a way that opens them up sonically, and more successfully than most of the ‘genreless’ crowd who—let’s be honest—don’t have the most cogent endgame. Here, while a song like Chloroform Nightmares is new territory for the band, in its throbbing, tense synths that seed a cavernous arena-rock hook and vocal performance from Han Mee, it’s an easy fit that Hot Milk’s pliability can fully support.
It cuts the figure of a band who couldn’t be more ready for a proper breakout, where they’ve got a sound and style that’s open for some reworking but remains steadfastly strong and accessible at every turn. If you must nitpick, the seams that come from connecting the edges of Hot Milk’s past EPs are still here, but that’s the sort of minor grievance that isn’t even worth bringing up when it doesn’t detract from the quality as a whole. Furthering that, Hot Milk just seem to work better within these modern parameters of pop-rock and alt-rock, particularly in the writing. They aren’t so different from a lot of their contemporaries thematically, this time leaning back on their own empowerment as outcasts and individuals, but with a deftness to it that keeps them from sliding into the homogeneity and boredom those themes can often inspire. They feel locomotive and, fittingly enough, fiery, and that makes all the difference in the world when there’s a real supercharged wallop to the title track or Teenage Runaways. Maybe I Fell In Love With Someone I Shouldn’t Have flirts with a Yungblud-esque gurn that’s never pleasant, no matter who it comes from, but Hot Milk are smart enough it pull it back into genuine anthemia. It’s also the best example of their two-vocalist dynamic that the EP has, as Mee puts an ex on blast and Jim Shaw acts as the backup in their corner that puts up how pliable a mixed gender front-team can be. It’s the sort of little flourish that feels nearly exclusive to Hot Milk in the current climate, amplified by a rawness and tattiness that both bring as singers, in a good way. In the current pop-rock paradigm that looks to merge sharp production with notable scrappiness, few are as well-equipped to make a great job of it as Hot Milk, and …Gasoline continues to see them toned up and making a genuine play for something huge. They’ve amassed more than enough proof of their capability and this one is no different, as yet another swing for the fences that, at this stage, is proving undeniable to avoid. If and when that debut full-length does come around, get ready for Hot Milk to conquer the world.
For fans of: Stand Atlantic, As It Is, Boston Manor
‘The King And Queen Of Gasoline’ by Hot Milk is released on 5th August on Music For Nations.
Words by Luke Nuttall