Heatmiser – Mic City Sons

April 14th, 2010 by Eric Loose


Anybody who listens to music frequently is destined to be asked the question, “Hey, where do I go next?” by the less experienced listener. Now, by no means am I pretentiously promoting my own listening habits. Though, I think we all have at least one album that we can swear produces instant satisfaction. Do I go to Radiohead, Brand New, Opeth, Thrice, or another cliché universal Sputnik favorite? No, well how about Elliott Smith? Close, I go with his earlier band, Heatmiser, and their final album, Mic City Sons. Immediately gratifying, beautiful lyrics and pleasant melodies are always major advantages when recommending music.

Elliott Smith, a persona in the music stratosphere everyone should know for his solo work, teamed up with Neil Gust and a few others to create the band Heatmiser. Two studio albums, Dead Air and Cop and Speeder, were both accomplished with limited success. Heatmiser opted to alter their sound on what would become their final album, Mic City Sons. Electing for a much more refined, indie-rock effect, rather than the more organic, crude punk sound on the previous two paid off.

Mic City Sons varies mainly between two types of songs. To start off the album is the moderate “Get Lucky.” As Smith belts out the chorus “We”re taking you to pieces” with a tinge of anger in his voice, it’s as if he’s just a tad too restrained and reserved. This method of Smith singing over the fast-paced guitars and superb drumming of Tony Lash (sweet name, no?) is deserted throughout the rest of the album. Following in similar fashion are the fast-paced “Eagle-Eye” and “Cruel Reminder,” but Smith surrenders the vocal work to Neil Gust. While not an utter disappointment, it is somewhat underwhelming after Elliott. These poppy songs keep the album moving though. They are well-placed, and the album triumphs because of the variation.

Simply put, Mic City Sons contains two gems in which the others pale in comparison. While the other songs are enjoyable, “Plainclothes Man” and “Half Right” are Elliott near his full potential, which is huge when you listen to his solo catalogue. The introverted and sensitive lyrics are directly heartwarming and melancholy. “Half Right” places Elliott at the center of a relationship deteriorating due to his drug use. His common use of self-deprecating lyrics hit hard.

“With a broken sink for a face

and a head that just takes up space

he’s not half right

I was sticking up for a friend

well there’s nothing much to defend

it’s a lost fight

cause when I talk to you on the phone

it’s just like being alone

it’s not half right”

“Plainclothes Man,” on the other hand, is Elliott delicately placing words and melodies together to form a masterpiece. On his way to the crescendo of him belting out, “I remember, I remember why I dream in black and white,” he sounds as if he will break into tears at any moment. Emotional and genuine, this is a precious song that stands out among Heatmiser’s other work. Despite the obvious advantages of pop catchiness, great lyrics, and excellent song-placement, Mic City Sons suffers from some downsides.

Gust’s singing, in comparison with Elliott”s, is mediocre. Also, there is a limited amount of filler, but it is there, in the form of “Low-Flying Jets,” “Pop in G,” and “Blue Highway.” That being said, Heatmiser’s final album before Elliott Smith’s solo work is a great indication of his ensuing achievement. It has all primary aspects of an excellent album, catchiness, and sensational lyrics and melodies. It does not get too profound or different as to turn off first-time listeners. So, next time somebody tells me they’re looking to go a little deeper into music than radio rubbish, I will, without a doubt, recommend Mic City Sons.

Recommended Songs:

Plainclothes Man

Half Right

You Gotta Move

Overall Grade: 88% B+

Download on Heatmiser - Mic City Sons




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