What Made Milwaukee Famous

Admittedly, I did not know much about What Made Milwaukee Famous before they signed to Barsuk. That’s not to say they didn’t have success before their signing though, as they played on PBS’ ‘Austin City Limits’ with Franz Ferdinand as one of the only unsigned acts to play during the show’s 32 year history. That sure got the attention of several labels, and rightfully so. They aren’t from Milwaukee, but they are from Austin, Texas. Their charming sound is an eccentric mix of several styles, as their songs on their debut Trying to Catch Up can turn from catchy power pop riffs to an acoustic ballad of heartbreak. Their sound is quite modern in utilizing electronics and production to the fullest, comparative to their touring buddies the French Kicks. I’m not sure if they got their name from the Jerry Lee Lewis song, but it sounds a lot more fun than The Strokes or The Shins. They are re-releasing their debut Trying to Catch Up on Barsuk, which is now re-mastered with four new tracks. I know it is officially not an album of 2006, but Trying to Catch Up is one of the best albums I have heard this year.

‘Hellodrama’ is just pure catchy bliss. I think it is rather apparent that this band has the potential to be on those mainstream MTV shows that we all love to hate, but try and ignore that for a second. ‘Hellodrama’ is most likely the ticket for the band to really get out in the open like they deserve. The song is easily accessible, as easily understandable witty lyrics kick it off, with power-pop riffs and slight synths backing it up. I often get sick of bands who make a verse and a chorus and repeat it the whole song, but What Made Milwaukee Famous are the exact opposite. There are eight to nine structural separations in this song, each more recognizable every new time you listen, with the chorus opening with vocalist Michael Kingcaid barely shouting, “Oh, Charlena!” in a loving manner. ‘idecide’ is the opener to the album, and it reminds me of early Muse before they tried to be the next Pet Shop Boys. The melodic vocals leading to the synthetic eruption sounds familiar, but still maintains to have great originality, leading to a curiously odd but fulfilling opener. The song is a strong example of their range, as the flow of the album keeps its maintainence, even when the song “Hopelist” (a few tracks later) reminds me of a mixture between Simon & Garfunkel and Elliott Smith. It works though, yet again. ‘Sweet Lady’ is an extremely upbeat song with bittersweet lyrics. “I can’t help thinkin’ that you love somebody but me,” Drew Patrizi’s vocals chirp over twinkling keys. ‘Sweet Lady’ is my favorite out of the new four that is included on Barsuk’s reissue. Expect to see this band on the commercial circuit soon.


What Made Milwaukee Famous – Hellodrama



What Made Milwaukee Famous – Sweet Lady



What Made Milwaukee Famous – idecide



Official Web Site


Mike Mineo

I'm the founder/editor of Obscure Sound, which was formed in 2006. Previously, I wrote for PopMatters and Stylus Magazine.

Send your music to [email protected].


  1. I absolutely loved them in ACL, and that’s the way I found out about them…

    The CD is really great, but it’s gonna suck that I won’t be seeing them on Street Scene 🙁


  2. i also found out about them on ACL and i fell in love with them right then and there…their cd is amazing and i just saw them live for the first time in houston and it was great “the jeapordy of contentment” made me tear up a little bit….simply amazing

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.