Johnstown's Mike Miller takes a personal journey with The Beagle Club | Music | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Johnstown's Mike Miller takes a personal journey with The Beagle Club

The Husky Tenor
Friends Make Records

Like anyone growing up in small-town America -- in this case, Johnstown, Pa. -- Mike Miller is searching for answers to the wordless dilemma of his mundane existence. But instead of just grumbling from behind a counter at Subway or calling the 700 Club, he's joined his brother Matt and various stalwarts from his area's small but tight-knit music scene to form The Beagle Club.

The Husky Tenor kicks off with the REM-esque anthem "Weird Internet": "Main street Johnstown is a one-way / That leads out, only out." And from there, the album rockets upward, every song filled with both loneliness and hope, and each literate line carefully crafted to convey the personal journey of a man in a world controlled by invisible forces confining him and everyone he knows in predictable, miserable lives.

Just to drive the point home, Miller has glued to the CD case a tiny envelope containing a six-page letter. Sometimes there's an overt, political side to his angst. "A 'W' standing for 'wrong' for four more years," and "I'm financing a war for greed and bravado / I know where my taxes go" are statements as cogent as any made by Anti-Flag or The Dixie Chicks. (Or, for that matter, by Miller's congressman, John Murtha.)

Along the way, the listener encounters a band melding jangly folk-pop with bouts of distorted indie-rock fury. Mike and the other players pile sonic layers atop his musings, ranging from the bells, piano and cello of "Lock and Keystone" to the banjo, violin and musical saw on "The Outlaw Trail."

So whether you're riding the hobo train of This Bike Is a Pipe Bomb's anarcho-folk-punk, digging the Neil Young-ish Magnolia Electric, or feeling the sparse indie folk of The Mountain Goats, there's something in The Beagle Club to wet your whistle. I'm not sure, though, how deeply an Adult Alternative drone with two kids, an SUV and a Whole Foods obsession can identify with a sentiment like "I wear the same clothes for days at a time." Perhaps Miller speaks for a generation that aspires to greater tasks than just serving lattes to the boomers.

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