Like the saying "sometimes it's better to leave your mouth shut and to be thought an idiot than to open it and remove all doubt," I think that oftentimes mystique is a much more powerful legacy than vanity projects. Vinny Miller created a buzz for himself many years back under the Starry Smooth Hound moniker with a song called "Dreamt You In A Dream" on the hit-or-miss Anakin compilation on 4AD records. The aforementioned track was a standout on the release, and it set the 4AD faithful in motion, wondering who this Miller character was and what he would do next.
On The Block is his first official statement, and while my first sentence of this review is probably a bit harsh, I still think that this 11 track release isn't going to stand up as well as the release that most people had in their minds after hearing his Starry Smooth Hound track. Fan expectations are usually unfair to heap on any debut effort, but there are a couple tracks on On The Block that reek of excess so much that it pulls down some of work on the disc that's actually quite good. After opening with a snippet of radio-filtered garage with rapping over it (see previous sentence), the album settles down into the simple opener of "Breaking Out Of Your Arms." Over a fairly basic guitar strum, Miller crackles and croons, building into a controlled frenzy. After the similarly-structured "Roll Complete," the disc breaks into the shrill "Pigpen," a warbling rock track that features plenty of knob-twiddling and probably what are the most theatrical (and some would say annoying) vocals by Miller on the entire release.
"Cromagno" is another of those excessive tracks mentioned above, and it sounds like a chorus of karoake singers trying to do their best impression of over-the-top Jimmy Plant while "Millatude" is a piano-backed track that is fronted by Miller sounding like he sped up his voice chipmunk-style and then played it through an oscillating fan. "Hogbreath Busts A Move" brings back the over-the-top vocals, but they actually work alongside the hyper-gritty lo-fi track, but Miller is at his best when he plays things down a bit more. That's most evident on the almost meditative "Alioth," a five and a half minute slow core track that goes down easy. As a debut release, it shows promise, but On The Block is so wildly inconsistent that it makes for a rather frustrating listen.