[sic] Magazine

Mikal Cronin – MCIII

You don’t get a second chance at a good first impression and, worse still, benefit of the doubt easily earned during an initial encounter can be lost in a heartbeat during a subsequent one. Garage-rock go-to Mikal Cronin’s trademark bluster has always been quick to like, but his melodic solo material tends, nevertheless, to be lacking in depth. His economically-titled MCIII is no different in this regard, yet you get the idea that, no matter the album, or year in fact, you could tune in to the latest Cronin composition and find rough-hewn guitar-pop worthy of note, but so too ever-dwindling audiences.

The times they are a-changing, you see, and Mikal Cronin is not … or, rather, he is, but in that studio-indulgent way where an orchestra’s worth of instrumentation is predictably thrown at the arrangement with little benefit. To Cronin’s credit, however, this clutter of saxophone, trumpet, French horn and strings doesn’t often get in his way; it’s just that his underlying formula is now a little threadbare, deviating most wildly from a pretty safe template on the acoustic-led “I’ve Been Loved”, which, tear-jerking strings aside, strums along like a wet weekend at The Eagles’ “Hotel California”.

Perhaps most interestingly MCIII is split into an A-side comprising of “hits” and a proggy “weird concept record” of a B-side. True to Cronin’s word, his opening five tracks are a tumble of inoffensive pop, super-catchy soft-rock where the strings carry the melody. Parts bring to mind 90s retro-fetishists producers like Ben Folds, especially during “Turn Around” and “Made My Mind Up” when keys run as free as bird over the latter’s closing bars. Yet, all the same, you can’t help but fondly remember when he used to summarily rip a track apart with sweet solos, the stings in these tracks’ tails too few and far between.

As for the numbered concept suite it’s an idea that probably worked better in Cronin’s head than on record. Although his narrative fails to convery a coherent message he does finally find his pedals during its running time. Accordingly, “Ready” bops along nicely and “Gold” gets a good stomp going, its tzouras strings adding a cool dose of exotica. More worringly, though, “Control” contains further harmonic concessions to Don Henley and co. while the remainder of the experiment is decidedly on the forgettable side. MCIII as a whole is very much a case of one step forward two steps back for Cronin. Let’s hope he can find his feet for the inevitable MCIV.

Best track: “Gold”

~MCIII is released May 4th 2015 via Merge.~