Acerbic, politically-aware lyrics and a show-stopping band raise Chris Mills' best material above the ordinary... but you'll be happiest if you stick to the rockers.
Chicago songwriter Chris Mills has been around for a decade or so, alternating his sensitive, guitar-man ballads with kicking, rocking countrified romps. These latter songs are way more fun, and it's good to see him delivering a passel of them in Living in the Aftermath. "Atom Smashers" is clearly the best, a biting indictment of poseurs and criminals, from Hitler and Tojo, all the way down to the Gitmo softball team. "All's Well That Ends" is almost as good, a horn-charging, piano-banging rampage through rock and Americana territories. The title cut swaggers and struts through a country mile of political metaphors, swaying slightly in a headwind of drunken fiddle, banjo and organ. Mills is backed on this and other cuts by a cracking band -- David Nagler on piano and organ, Silos regulars Drew Glackin and Konrad Meissner in the rhythm section and Bloodshot resident pedal steel genius Jon Rauhouse sitting in. The slower songs -- "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet" and "Such a Beautiful Thing" -- are pretty enough, but feel a little diluted, like just adding water to Okkervil River. Still if you like a little political acumen and dry humor with your Saturday night wreckage, the hard-living, whiskey swilling rock songs on this album are just the ticket.