Milhouse Singer Artie Philie & Guitarist Brian Meehan Look Back on Obscenity in the Milk LP

Photo courtesy of Milhouse

Milhouse are an enigma. Their genre-defying sound is incompatible with any typical punk or hardcore identifier. In their 1990s heyday, they certainly didn’t fit with the heavy urban vibe of New York City hardcore bands, and they didn’t fit with the more melodic vibes of Long Island hardcore bands. But they played shows with all of them, often sticking out like an antagonistically acerbic sore thumb.

But that was a big part of their appeal. Aside from being an enigma, Milhouse were also a force to be reckoned with during their live sets. Frontman Artie Philie’s aggression and sharp-wittedness proved both entertaining and intimidating.

Milhouse were just their own machine, existing in whatever form they saw fit. And Wreck-Age Records recently re-released their seminal 1997 LP, Obscenity in the Milk:

Even now, decades after their breakup, they’re not so sure what to make of the record’s reissue. “I don’t remember how the discussion started exactly, but I do remember being baffled at the idea that there was any interest. Understand that Milhouse was never a popular band by any measure – at our absolute peak we could maybe count on 100 people in Long Island or the NYC boroughs showing up to frown at us with their arms crossed. That was as good as it got in 1998 right before we fell apart. Also understand we never had any delusions about popularity either.

"We weren’t playing the kind of hardcore that made our friends’ bands successful in the '90s, and we made enemies faster than we did friends,” offers Philie.

While that may appear a bit tongue-in-cheek, Artie isn’t playing around. This was the Milhouse of the '90s. Cast off by themselves even in a sea of seemingly like-minded hardcore kids.

Milhouse @ Huntington YMCA, circa 1995. (Photo: Rich Gaccione)

But what couldn’t be denied was the frenzied chaotic sonic assault of the songs on Obscenity in the Milk. The record’s first track, “Of Epic Proportions,” opens with a soundbite from The Crucible that segues into Artie screaming the song into existence. What follows are layers of discordant guitars, crushing drums, and incendiary lyrical content.

Or what of “Get the Axe”? The song is barely a minute long and pounds through with choppy guitars, stop-start drumming, Artie screaming “The home is where the hatchet is” all while samples from The Shining bookend the song itself. Point is, this was hardcore punk taken to a new level of antipathy. This was not about following a blueprint set down by some seemingly ‘crucial’ forebear. This was about engaging an audience in a sonic battering. Come what may.

“When we were together, we wanted the live show to be more than us just playing. It was more about Artie being antagonistic and thought-provoking. A lot of people remember him as being funny, which he is, but not all the shows were like that. There were a lot of demons that he would get out and I’ve watched our shows go from people being really into it, to getting pissed off at what he was saying or depressed,” remembers guitarist Brian Meehan.

But that’s part of what makes Milhouse so remarkable. Even more remarkable is that they capture that vibe on the record. Somehow Obscenity in the Milk feels nearly as scathing as the live show.

Milhouse @ Huntington YMCA, circa 1995. (Photo: Rich Gaccione)

But those vibes can’t be manufactured. You can’t just try to be angry. For better of worse, it has to be born of something.

Artie reflects: “The normal thing to do in your 20s is finish college and start figuring out a career path. When I was 22, I had zero skills and wanted nothing more out of life than to be in a band that sounded like Born Against or SFA. Paul Bearer from Sheer Terror was more of an aspirational figure to me than my actual Dad. I was always broke, living in [Mind Over Matter, Bad Trip guitarist] Arty Shepherd’s parents’ house, and driving some dying 1970s car to a shitty job every day.

"Between general life circumstances and my own emotional immaturity, my mind was like a swirling drain all the time. This was the mindset I was ‘operating with, and I was very fortunate to find a lifelong friend like Brian who said, ‘let’s do this kind of band’ and opened a way for me to process my bullshit. Milhouse was the valve for all my mental sewage.”

The energy in songs like “Welcome Back Fucker,” “Versus Excalibur,” and “Life of the Party” are steeped in those struggles. That’s what makes this reissue so compelling. Obscenity in the Milk was at once a truly ingenuitive hardcore LP and an extended therapy session put to music.

Frankly, as we continually swim through a sea of tired-ass labels giving tired-ass records ‘the reissue treatment,’ Obscenity in the Milk deserves to stand out. Not simply because Milhouse was meant to stand out, but because the record remains a phenomenal example of musical originality and confrontation. “Milhouse was never going to be the next Silent Majority or V.O.D. And that was fine. We were content with our role in the whole prismatic Long Island hardcore culture thing happening then,” offers Artie.

Sure, he’s right. But their role was bigger than just that crazy band with that crazy singer. Decades later, Obscenity in the Milk remains a pinnacle of how hardcore music doesn’t need to be derivative, or an homage to anything.

This record is a lesson in using music to confront your demons and bearing your disfunction for all to see. We were lucky to get that record way back in 1997. We may be luckier that Wreckage Records reissued it, with bonus tracks, for us all this year.


Obscenity in the Milk is available now on vinyl and digital via Wreck-Age Records.


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