What few people will say about good rock music is that it’s not always the guitar licks or the heavy bass lines or even a good hi-hat… no, it’s the voice. Think about some of the classic rock vocalists of all time… Elvis, Jim Morrison… even Steven Tyler. They all have distinctive voices. Dan Miller, along with John Beck and Max Harwood bring that kind of vocal power to their indie rock outfit Mission South. Recently releasing volume two of the set “Migration,” the new disc is sure to bring fans from north and south to the band’s raw rock flavor.
The first full track on the album “Free” asks the simple question, “Whatcha leavin’ behind?” and pushes a pretty straightforward rock sound. From the very first lyric, listeners get that spine-tingling reality that this is a band to reckon with. The second track, “Peaches” is the single for the album and packs its own brand of southern punch. The syncopated guitar riff reminds me of something strangely familiar, but alludes me. “Sometimes I can’t see the signs, but I do it all for you.” It’s basically a love song cast in the sounds of an upbeat rock jam. It’s a festival song if ever one’s been written. I can smell it from here.
The cool guitar play at the beginning of “Saint” ushers listeners into a different Mission South sound, one that is comfortable and relaxing. This here is a beach jam. Where’s the Corona when I need one? It’s a delicious and subtle summer rock song. This is probably not a connection many reviewers make, but it reminds me of an old Pax217 song from the early 90s. When you return from the way-back machine, I want you to get that this is a solid chill track. “Would ever find someone like me?” It’s got a little Franti in it. And that my friends is a good thing.
“Photographs and Fables” is a ponderous track on the album. While it preserves the electric guitar and overall sound of the band, it certainly takes on a unique aesthetic which emphasizes far more complex lyrics than the other songs on the album. It’s fundamentally about memory and relationships. “Photographs and fables they keep me closer to you, but further from today.” Echoing a sentiment in David Ramirez’s “Shoeboxes,” this song focuses on the complexities of the human past. It’s well done and, frankly, a welcome diversion from the other jam songs on the album.
The album brings it home with a track titled, “Thriller,” but it’s not the MJ version. It’s got a nasty little guitar riff that makes the song pop. It is undoubtedly a crowd pleaser, with a few nice anthemic lyrics leading to a sing-along chorus. “Livin’ in our wildest dream… runnin’ from scene to scene… or will we ever love at all?” It’s a fitting anthem for the hectic busy-ness of the 21st century. I’m not sure if this is a celebration or a judgment of said, society. I’ll say it’s a critique. If it is, bravo gents for making a solid point in the midst of a largely complacent culture.
All told this is a keeper album. It’s a distinctively summer album, especially for the summer of 2013. The heavy blues rock influences throughout the album will keep us listening. The solid vocals will keep me a fan of Mission South for subsequent releases. I like their combination of a creative sound that manages to take on a few different forms throughout the album. For fans of more popular blues, this is a must buy album. It is a solid buy for most fans of indie rock music overall.