Marc Miner’s Last Heroes is as fine of a sophomore effort as we had a right to expect from this German/American singer/songwriter. Based out of Vienna, Austria, Miner’s lived a “straight” life as well as one on the wrong side of the law, and his experiences with life’s seamy underbelly fleshes out many of the songs on Last Heroes. The eleven-track collection traffics largely in a classic country sound, but blues and rock make their presence felt here as well. His storytelling strengths, particularly with sketching out distinctive characters, serve him well throughout these eleven recordings and illustrate tremendous growth over his fine debut Smile When You’re Wasted.
He definitely isn’t interested in pulling punches. Last Heroes’ opener “Sweet Revenge” features lyrics that may remind listeners of seminal movies such as Bonnie & Clyde or Natural Born Killers with its depiction of a violent couple’s criminal adventures and what becomes of them as a result. It has a raucous, south-of-the-border vibe without ever attempting to manifest that in a ham-fisted fashion. It’s light touches, instead, and a small assortment of instrumental flourishes. “Girl Gone Bad” is deep in the blues with a dirty rock and roll attitude to match. It provides Last Heroes with an unapologetically racy interlude as Miner wails about a temptress figure who has a tight hold on him.
The lead guitar break during the second half of “Nicki & Bob” puts a vocal-like exclamation point on the song’s relaxed and lightly layered arrangement. It’s one of Last Heroes’ most fully realized tracks as Miner develops his narrative about the downtrodden pair Nicki and Bob with idiosyncratic observational skills and ample compassion. “Hero of Laredo” is the album’s second storytelling/character showcase. The track invokes its border feel without ever overreaching and does an exemplary job of drawing a character and backstory for listeners.
“Warrior Princess” is an unusual song in its language and subject matter that allows Miner’s idiosyncratic imagery to shine bright. The steady roll of its chorus is a high point, but he scatters several instrumental peaks throughout the composition. “Bible & Rifle” blends stomping blues and rock together. It also spotlights Miner at his angry best though the track is never the songwriting equivalent of empty screaming and bluster. Any guitar-lover will appreciate the nasty crunch he achieves with this track. His penchant for distinctive language shines through once again.
Organ helps spruce up the jaunty shuffle inclinations of “Home Ain’t No Place for Me” and fills the song with judicious color. Miner doesn’t sing this song with stone-faced seriousness, even if the lyrics don’t depict a particularly happy scenario, and the dark humor present in the track’s lyrics gives this song a different feel than many of its predecessors. Marc Miner’s Last Heroes doesn’t include a single track you’d deem filler, but there are cuts that are clearly on another level over their brethren. The album, taken as a whole, is a rewarding experience from beginning to end and plays like the next logical step in Miner’s artistic journey.