Review: Miller and The Hunks – & Jeff…Part II

On Valentine’s Day, Columbus, OH quartet Miller and The Hunks (@millerhunks) will release the EP & titled & Jeff…Part II, which is the perfect day to showcase the romance-themed alternative/new wave album. Lead singer, synthesist, and sole songwriter Colin Miller has concocted six tracks that most people can relate to during these stressful social times. This record ought to be a big hit with concertgoers when the band performs live this Saturday, February 17 with solid support from The Turbos, The A.M. Soul Society, and Courtney From Work.

Recorded in Nashville, the EP kicks off with “Need to Know”, a tune with slick synthesizer play, solid drum work, and a crisp guitar rift in the first 30 seconds. The track starts at a slightly slower pace than normal Hunks fare, but in about the middle things pick up to provide head and fist bangers something to rock out to. The second track “Sex Ain’t Love” is appropriate for the upcoming romantic holiday and is a commentary on lust’s impact on judgment and fulfillment. This is sure to be a track that garners the band a great deal of empathy from the horny and empty.

The third song, “I Don’t Care” starts slow but introduces crunchy guitars and Miller’s wailing a half-minute later. This is the one track that should remind listeners of The Killers, although for the most part Colin Miller and Brandon Flowers’ vocals are separate entities. The song could be in either group’s set list and not seem out of place. The next tune “Sided System” is straight out of 1984 and works here as one of the album’s ballads. The standards of radio-friendly tracks back in the day were different and this would have soared up the charts three decades ago.

The 1980s are alive and well on the fifth song “Waste Your Time”, which should draw comparisons to Wall Of Voodoo and R.E.M. of 30 years ago. It also sounds like it would be brilliant for radio play on Alternative stations. The last track is “Meat You Again” and is the record’s second ballad and is jazzed up much more than “Sided System”. This will be the slow-dance jam of the night at the upcoming concert. Perhaps Miller can market this song to high schoolers just in time for prom season.

& Jeff…Part II is a melting pot of genres, styles, and speeds which works like a charm for Miller and The Hunks. Colin is known for mixing things up on each album and this record is no different. It prevents the band from becoming stale and pigeonholed, which would only harm its fan base. The band can be randy, funny, and serious all in one album. It is probably the reason why they have been going strong for the past several years. Fans of their prior releases will likely enjoy what the group has presented here and due to the EP’s diversity, some fencesitters might embrace it as well.

Review: Earwig’s Gibson Under Mountain

Columbus, Ohio outfit Earwig (@earwigtheband) is considered an “underground” band, however, after getting a dose of the 2011 album Gibson Under Mountain, it is amazing this band has not received their due. In anticipation of the record’s re-release on February 13, it is appropriate to introduce younger alternative rock aficionados to this group who seemed to bubble under mainstream fame, but not quite get the spotlight. It might not be too late for them to get some well-deserved recognition, though.

The first track, “Trees”, starts slow but picks up the pace within a matter of seconds. It is a remarkable opener and is just the tip of the iceberg of what Earwig offers. Lead singer and songwriter Lizard McGee penned himself a would-be hit with “Star Cross’d”, a tune that includes backup from Casey Cooper from highly regarded Columbus rock duo The Receiver. The third song, “Not About You”, is another solid example of McGee’s songwriting skills at play. Also, the album clicks due to production from McGee and Mike Landolt along with superb musicianship from bassist Matt Wagner, drummer Justin Crooks, and percussionist George Hondroulis.

Although McGee writes great zero-to-sixty alternative rock tracks, but he has some power ballads in his arsenal. The fourth song, “Her Heart”, is one of them and it includes help from backing vocalist Andy Harrison and organist Thom Boyer. This record also includes a prolific holiday song “Next Christmas” that deals with the travesty of drugs during a would-be festive time of year. These are fine examples of McGee’s wide creativity range and if he were interested in writing and producing songs for other artists, they would be in excellent hands with him in charge.

The remainder of Gibson Under Mountain reeks of awesomeness that alternative rock fans love and miss as the genre gets more computerized and sanitized. A surefire radio smash is “Glorious & Gloom” that with the right label support would go straight to the top. Ditto the Death Cab-esque “Shiny Morning”. The record ends on a smashing note with “Rumplestiltskin”, the record’s longest track by a country mile. From start to finish, the album is a fantastic effort worth more critical and commercial acclaim than received seven years ago. The re-release will give alternative rock buffs a throwback to the days of Blink-182, Flickerstick, among others.

The fact that the band did not get the major label contract worthy of their work is highly baffling. Per the band’s Wikipedia page, for a time there certainly was interest from labels but it was not to be. Undeterred, McGee went the DIY route by opening up LFM Records. The group is in good company with other respected locals on the cusp of the big time such as Watershed, Templeton, and Miranda Sound. Word is that in addition to the Gibson Under Mountain re-release more than a week away, new material is coming soon. 2018 might just be the year Earwig breaks through like never before.

Artist to Watch: Miller and The Hunks

Columbus, Ohio’s Miller and The Hunks (@millerhunks) perform highly prolific alternative music that is difficult to pin down. Some songs are slow, some go at three-fourths speed, and a few are pedal to the metal headbangers. One would imagine that was lead singer and songwriter Colin Miller’s mission from the start. It prevents the brand containing his namesake from going stale and being pigeonholed into one sub-classification. He has succeeded in ensuring listeners get a surprise with every song. Going back to the group’s origins a couple of years ago, the band has dropped seven different Bandcamp releases of synth-laden, guitar-rocking, and drum-banging alternative pop rock. Each record is more prolific than the previous. As the group gets ready to headline a show serving as a bouillabaisse of genres this Wednesday, November 15, here is a summary of each albums’ standout tracks in which some are sure to be part of their upcoming set.

From April 2015’s Purely Sexual, one outstanding tune is the surefire smash “I Want Out”, which is also a popular track the band plays live.  A major label would have to summon a radio edit version as the song contains Miller spouting the F-bomb a couple of times. Another fantastic one from this 13-song album is the piano-heavy ballad “Happy Days” which could be a Hot AC or Top 40 chart hit. “Blue Dream”, however, is one guitar-heavy gem that would be right at home at hard rock stations nationwide.

Later that year, Miller and The Hunks released two holiday-themed singles “Last Halloween” and “Hunkmas”. The former is a soothing, bluesy yet haunting tune that at the beginning sends a chill down one’s spine and picks up big time at the back half. The latter tune of 2015 is a Weezer-ish take on Christmas that just might be the best rocking song for the season. Parents be forewarned, much like the catchy “I Want Out”, listener discretion is advised for adult language. To be fair, it would not be authentic rock n’ roll without a little controversy from the band.

In August of 2016, the quartet which then consisted of Miller, guitarist Jon Leonard, bassist/backup vocalist Josiah Ogden, and now-defunct drummer Tommy Cheeseman commissioned the six-song EP Would You Like To Yes?. According to the Bandcamp page, the record is described as “a journey of an alt-rock EP, telling the story of the end of a life of a violent drug-addicted man.” The band turns what comes off as a tragedy in the blurb into some fantastic indie rock vibes that make people dance versus cry. “Drunk Driving” is a Walk The Moon-esque tune that will have folks dancing at live shows. They slow the pace down a few notches on “Good Heavens” a brooding bluesy song that shows some fantastic guitar work from Leonard and vibrant vocals from Miller and Ogden.

In the fall of that same year, Miller and The Hunks bestowed the single “Stapled Shut” upon indie rock enthusiasts. It is another one of their tracks that would warrant a radio edit, but this time it would be due to time constraints. The unedited version clocks in at approximately five and a half minutes. It would not be until July of this year that they released new music, providing the public with another live show favorite titled “Creativity”, although likely known at shows as “I Wanna Dance”. That is a tune that lives up to its lyrics and gets crowds going each time it is played at concerts.

Last month, this time with Ethan Joseph behind the kit, Miller and The Hunks released the eight-song album And Jeff: Part 1. It lives up to the group’s prior works while standing on its own merits. The record provides the Hunks’ standard mixture of alternative indie rock with a slightly heavier rock tune thrown in. On this album, “Wicked Tongue” is glorious hard rock presented only as the boys can do. “Gravity” is a melodic synth-pop jewel with provocative lyrics that the group has performed live and will likely do for Wednesday’s gig from the popular venue Spacebar featuring Los Angeles duo Dad & Steve, local project Golden Death Music, and Toledo-area post-hardcore band Castle No Kings. The sets will be limited in time, so fans will get only a sample of what Miller and The Hunks has to offer. Given Colin Miller’s ingenious songwriting and the band’s priceless execution, even an abbreviated set is sure to satisfy audiences.