Jim Mill hails from the gritty city of Lakewood. Tucked into the northern section of Ocean County, Lakewood is well known for its turn-of-the-century popularity as a pristine vacation resort for folks such as the Rockefellers and the Goulds. Of course, much has changed since those golden years when there was real cocaine in Coca Cola, but one thing remains true: Lakewood is home to enormous amounts of A-list talent. From sports stars like Brandon Carter of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to Senator Robert Singer and various artists and musicians such as Lew Soloff (Blood, Sweat & Tears), Lakewood has offered some unique individuals to the world at large.
Mill could very well be the next Ocean County-born “David” to go after the world's goliaths, and he has the artistic fuel to take him far past his humble “Ocean County boy” origins. Mill has honed his rebellious, blue collar style along the influential designs of popular vocalists such as Rivers Cuomo (Weezer), Greg Graffin (Bad Religion) and Eddie Vedder of the not really necessary to list band, Pearl Jam. Actually, from what he says on his ReverbNation page, his appreciation of Eddie and crew is so great that friends have been known to call him “Pearl Jim.”
Jim got his start back in 2002 with Perfect Inertia, a popular local metal band that Mill performed in and utilized to figure out his choice of direction. This was also the start of his “coffee shop” evolution. Mill became a fixture in the scene and frequented the Internet Café, a popular gathering spot in Red Bank, NJ. During this time, Mill wrote and recorded his first EP, and landed spots on the cable television show OCC Undertow.
Since those early years, Mill has made great strides in the local scene, releasing several projects and paying dues alongside standout names such as Michael Brett, Emily Grove and Jason Sales of Moon Motel fame. Speaking of Moon Motel, Mill’s press release states that he is now manning the lead guitar duties for the Motel as of last month or so.
When it comes to his own music, Mill doesn’t spend years in the studio picking things to generic perfection, and his evangelically proportioned passion for creating art over pop culture product really shines on his latest disc, Aperture.
Mill grinds, rips, tears and ploughs through eight high-energy tunes that range from the pop-edged darkness of Weezer to the blitzkrieg barrage of bands such as Mother Love Bone and Foo Fighters.
Aperture is both an influential salute to Jim’s favorite ‘90s rock icons, as well as a complete look into the mind of an alternative rock disciple who still believes that these same bands that killed the glam metal dinosaurs have ongoing merit and longevity beyond the current 15 minutes of fame that’s earmarked for our current, mundane pop stars.
First tune up is called “It’s Over.” Bristling with distortion-laced quills, “It’s Over” pounds into the trance-like verse with Mack truck finesse. Mill’s penchant for all things Eddie Vedder shows on his vocal delivery. Powerful, short bursts lead the band into riff-dominated cacophony. Tubes sizzle as backbeats blaze under Mill’s simple and effective communication. “It’s Over” is the perfect song to begin anew with.
“Welcome To Hell” blasts into the spectrum with jagged ribbons of gain-drenched harmonics, drums, and bottom heavy bass. Fast and furious, Mill and company ride this welcome wagon like a roller coaster. Complex runs dodge flurries of drum roll syncopation and walking bass code. Think Foo Fighters meets Soul Coughing and you would be in the right ballpark. Good clean fun here, kids.
If I had a favorite song on the entire CD, number three would be it. “Darling” brings me back to phenomenal memories of R.E.M. when they were actually a good rock band. Mill growls out verses of grandeur, warbling and spitting out promise of allegiance as the band kicks into an agreeable 1980s pocket of rock and roll retaliation. Double-timed ending fades under analog hot six-string slings etch this radio gold number into my mind for all eternity.
“More Than Money” vamps into the fray with big octave down strokes and accentuating drum beats. Choruses are free-form grooves that hook the listener just as fast as anything Pearl Jam could have offered up in their 25-year career. Fast, fun and well executed, “More Than Money” pays off in the end.
“Decline” starts off with a solo fingerpicked electric as drums pull up alongside for the intro to the verse. The riff rolls around well, ushering Mill’s vocal onto the red carpet and down the middle of the madness. “Decline” isn’t bad, but it’s not his best foot forward, and the Vedder influence is a bit overwhelming at times. It finishes up as it began, with electric guitars glimmering and echoed into the silence of the end.
“Slayer” fades up into the beat, discordant riffs spider walk down the fret board as bass guitar surfaces ominously underneath feedback wails and a chugged-out wall of fuzz overcoat. Mill uses dynamics quite smartly on “Slayer.” Dropping his instrumentation in and out of verses, chorus and bridges, Mill drives emotional focus back to the listener again and again. The choruses are dark and catchy, and Mill’s voice peels paint with its raw, exposed showcase of vulnerability.
“Monster” is my second pick on the disc. Outstanding choices of compositional puzzle pieces set this song pretty in the overall mix of tracks. Mill holds the reins tight on this one, and you can feel the band just waiting to break out. But when they do, it’s not in the standard “give it all ya’ got” manner. Drums and bass connect, but guitars remain clean and docile at the gate while Mill tells his tale of the “cold-blooded killer” of his heart. Breakout guitars are horn-like as Mill unravels lightning-quick licks and lines. The chorus on “Monster” is alt rock goodness infused with simplistic and catchy lead guitar work and ingenious lyrical content. It’s a monster of a song.
The disc closes with the wide-open “See You Again.” Pianos roll across the spectrum as acoustics carry the rhythms. Synth pads seal the gaps as Mill lays his deep-toned voice across the piece. Images of missed ones reunited ring throughout as Mill paints his audiological picture of longing. The music is almost celebratory in its creative stance and Jim rides his message of a future hookup quite well.
Jim Mill has done a very good job with Aperture. Moreover, while the Pearl Jam adoration is a bit heavy for me, it’s an instrumental process that I both understand and relate to for a sophomore musician finding his voice. Compositional transformation is an ongoing process, and Mill has some savvy and original ideas to tack to the strategy/war room bulletin board for the next record.
Through the time-tested persistence of patience, hard work and perseverance, Mill is learning to express himself in a positive and pleasing manner to the music-buying public at large.
To get more insight into the mind and music of Jim Mill, head over to http://jimmill.bandcamp.com and also check him out at https://soundcloud.com/Jim-Millheiser.