Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

Miggs-Late Nights & Early Mornings

May 1, 2007

MiggsLate Nights & Early Mornings EP

33rd Street Records

I had the feeling that modern rock was dead. I was wrong. Miggs, the San Francisco-based self-described “rock” quartet is putting out albums, touring, and selling-out shows on the Left Coast like it was 1997 (or ’98), and someone forgot to turn the calendars. There is something reassuring about nostalgia, and solidly-made music can never be overlooked.

Late Nights & Early Mornings is simply a well-recorded, crisp album, rife with hooks, perfect timing, clear tones and precise vocals. I was especially impressed with Don Miggs’ voice, as he commands a mobile tenor over the mix of electric and acoustic guitars, crashing drums and wavering organ. Their front-man is capable and comfortable while powering through “Don’t Fix Me” or glistening over the soft acoustic blend of “Late Nights and Early Mornings.”

All the songs on Late Nights & Early Mornings display a pop-songwriter’s handiwork, with precise rhymes. The opening track, “Nothing”, begins: “Got a tape loop running through my head / got the same sad story in my bed / got an answer for whatever you just said / And I’d rather be anywhere else instead,” and continues to rifle off rhymes through each verse. A simple, singable chorus, “I’m left holding nothing / While you’re walking away with me.”, punctuates the song and reminds me that pop-rock, even if you’re no fan, can still get lodged in your head. I think that’s one measure of a songwriter’s ability: that he or she can reach an audience of non-fans.

Despite the great vocals and precise pop-songwriting, I was somewhat disappointed by one aspect of Late Nights & Early Mornings. For all its perfection, there’s little meat to the songs. True, you can sing along with them, but as soon as you begin to analyze the lyrics, you realize that these are essentially the same love-songs, breakup stories and missed phone calls presented to us by every other band. I found scant new ideas, or, more importantly, new means of presenting them. Rivers Cuomo penned “Butterfly,” speaking to every teenage guy who ever realized a relationship was dying; the writing was so specific, yet it paradoxically applied generally to a generation.

Where Miggs falls short, in my opinion, is that their words are everything Cuomo’s “Butterfly” was not: so general that nothing seems real. For example, in “Paying for All My Sins,” one of Don Miggs’ verses sums up a lost relationship with: “All the things you don’t say / That tell me everything / We’ll try this ending your way / I don’t need to win.” The generality negates any hope of essential and true emotion in this song; likewise, this was the case for most of the tunes on Late Nights & Early Mornings.

All the street teams, managers, producers and the army of PR people Miggs employs cannot make up for their lack of true feeling. Even the beautiful and stripped-down title track, “Late Nights & Early Mornings,” suffers this trademark shortcoming. I listened to this song repeatedly in hopes that it would affect me. Don Miggs’ voice tries to make the words real, and I truly believe it could. He’s got an incredible voice and they are solid musicians, but as the chorus of “Nothing” commiserates, “I am left holding nothing.”

—Timothy C. Avery

The_kitchen_sinks@yahoo.com

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Stephen Carradini and friends write reviews of bands that are trying to make the next step in their careers.

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