Chris Mills

Every Night Fight for Your Life

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On the one hand, Chris Mills' sometimes-rough voice and general nods to everything from Beatles pop/rock to alt-country moodiness and twang suggest a purist in full effect; on the other hand, Mills and his backing musicians have something which many neo-traditionalists don't on this, his first effort. Namely, a sense of fire and fun -- even if a song like "Delaware" sounds like something a bar band could create on a hot night, the point is more that it's like the best bar band in the universe, tackling the song and ripping through it. Mills lives up to the accompaniment easily and it helps capture the full atmosphere of Every Night Fight for Your Life, where many things combine to create something beyond the obvious influences. It doesn't hurt that Mills' co-production with multi-instrumentalist Brian Deek actually has a sense of depth and range; without being overtly commercial, it's clearly a studio-created effort that doesn't feel the need to be lo-fi. Mills' gentle acoustic parts aren't backed with tape hiss (though it's consciously used, and beautifully so, on the piano-led "Pontiac"), his voice comes through clearly, and with the other performers the end results are full-bodied rather than apologetic. That wouldn't mean much if the songs themselves weren't much, but Mills has an ear for unexpectedly sharp images (from "Funeral Date": "She reads Final Exit seven times a day") and even sharper guitar parts. If that's his lead on the blasting "Fire for You," the man is terribly underrated on that front. Turning from the less-than-a-minute solo acoustic "Girl on a Train" to the Ronettes-quoting "The Fresh Young Mouth," Every Night ultimately comes across as an intriguing alternative to Guided by Voices -- genre-mixing without effort, without wearing out its welcome, and with a clear sense of when less can be more.

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