Bands like the Miggs used to be a dime a dozen. Every town had a few, guitar-based quartets that were long on hooks and short on innovation — and no, those two elements are not at cross-purposes. Leave the advances to prog rock, we only need four chords (that’s three plus the minor counterpoint in the bridge), lyrics about girls and cars and some solid harmonies. We’ll win a battle of the bands, put out a record on a no-name label, split up and get back together to play our college 10th reunion.
Alas, that was then and this is, well, a time when a band like the Miggs is as much a breath of fresh air as a throwback to what those of us who went to college in the ’80s consider a better time for music. Unfortunately for the Miggs, not many people are really in the market for a disc like Anyway. Come to think of it, not that many people were back then either.
If you’re one of the proud few, don’t go off half-cocked in a mad dash to the Record Hut. This isn’t the second coming of Weezer, or even Material Issue, for that matter. It is a decent pop-rock record the likes of which is becoming more and more rare as major labels search for pop bands to bludgeon with bombastic production and indie labels fight that sea change by turning to noise rock and lo-fi pop. Somewhere betwixt those two extremes there is plenty of room for the Miggs of the world: solid pop bands that feature two guitars, bass, drums playing melodic songs with harmonies and hooks.
Problem is, I guarantee that’s not good enough for the Miggs. Check out the band’s website, and you’ll find earnest reports about great shows, news about how to request a song on the radio or how to buy the disc. That’s great, but ambition doesn’t equal success. Just ask the hundreds of other bands that try to get their fans (read: friends) to vote for them in the wwww.coolbandoftheweek.com contest to help “put them over the top.” Want an indication of a band in a rut? They’re forced to run their own web site. The bands on the rise have fans to do that for them.
OK, enough about the web site. Back to the music. While things start promisingly here with the catchy opener, “Lie to You,” things veer toward Matchbox 20/Third Eye Blind territory in quick fashion. You can just hear Rob Thomas’s thin voice stepping in for that of Don Miggs to carry the lyrics of “Grace.” The producer of the moment wouldn’t even need to replace the music, which has booming drums and wailing guitars to spare.
Things rebound a bit with “Between the Lines,” a by-the-numbers tune that takes off on the chorus as the backing vocals swell. But those more organic moments are few and far between. The band cites influences like the Replacements and Elvis Costello (yes, on that pesky web site again) but you’ll be hard pressed to hear it here.
OK, so Anyway has plenty of problems. Remember way back at the beginning of this, where I hailed it as the second coming? I’ll admit, that was a bit much. What I meant, of course, is that the record I wish the Miggs had made, one that was more focused on the killer hooks that fill the best tracks here and paid less attention to arena-rock aspirations, would be a worthy addition to any power pop fan’s CD rack.
As it is, this is a decent record that points to a forking path in the Miggs future. Take the right option, one that includes venturing from their California digs and toughening up their sound on the road, and they’ll put out a better record next time. Take the wrong way, focusing more on radio rotations than making the kind of songs too cool for the airwaves, and they’re headed for a long life of cut-out bins and opening slots on the bill when the latest AOR washout comes to town.