Driving Under Stars, the debut offering from the Tallahassee, Florida band Mile is probably the best rock album I’ve heard this year, taking a backseat only to Creed’s Human Clay. As great a record as this is, it almost didn’t happen at all.
Noel Hartough, Mile’s talented singer/guitarist, was playing clubs in Tallahassee when he forged a friendship with club owner, Jeff Hanson. Together, the two tried to make a go of a career in music, but Hartough’s subsequent disillusionment with the business forced him to abandon music and focus on college. After a year, Hanson coaxed Hartough back into music. Hanson had been managing and promoting an unknown local act called Creed and when that band started to create a buzz, Hartough was convinced that a music career was a viable possibility. He promptly went into the studio with Creed producer John Kurzweg and recorded several demos, two of which were added to regular rotation on a local radio station. The strength of those demos landed Hartough a publishing and recording deal and Mile was born.
Driving Under Stars blends the edginess of ‘70s rock with fantastic pop melodies and excellent two- and three-part harmonies. The result is 11 tracks of hook-laden ear candy. This wonderfully produced, cleverly arranged record is further bolstered by Hartough’s often thought-provoking lyrics that tackle issues ranging from alcoholism, depression to relationships and, in particular, religion. “Sunday Morning” tackles the hypocrisy of organized religion with lines like, “Cause somebody wanted a piece of my something / Piece of my soul I thought they’d never get” and “I can’t believe in Sunday Morning / Like I did when I was a kid.”
The album’s single, “Back to the Floor” is musically reminiscent of early Stone Temple Pilots while “(In the Mood for) Johnny Cash” conjures up the spacey tapestral images woven by Radiohead without being deemed a rip off. The rest of the record is pure, incomparable Mile—rock with depth and meaning, particularly on cuts like “See Through,” “Until You See Clearly,” “Perfect Ending” and “Someone Had to Save Me.”
Driving Under Stars is a solid debut record that wastes no time ensnaring the listener into its coils. It’s rare to find a record that delivers from beginning to end, one that doesn’t wear out it’s welcome after a couple spins, but gets better and better. Driving Under Stars certainly meets that criteria.