The Criticals Inspire With “Mimosa Hygiene” (EP)

This is intelligent and physical rock music with purpose and distinction. The Criticals aren’t among the Greta Van Fleets of the world indulging considerable talents for mimicry in hopes of scoring a pot full of money before fading into obscurity. They boast a signature sound and songwriting style already a little over a year after first forming and never restrict themselves to rock posturing alone; other influences make their presence felt during the course of Mimosa Hygiene’s six tracks. There’s an inspired spirit propelling this music forward; band members Cole Shugart and Parker Forbes strike me as two musicians and songwriters who live and breathe what they do rather than practicing their craft as dilettantes.

That commitment is evident in the opener “Good Lookin’”. You might expect this to be a strutting blast of macho hubris or a craven paean to lust from the title alone, but the track isn’t. It is, instead, a kaleidoscopic vignette the songwriting documents with cleverness and a slightly jaundiced eye. It’s never an unpleasant listen however. The production puts the instruments in your face and the vocals match the instrumental intensity each step of the way. This is a raucous and brawling opening to the release.

“Treat Ya Better” accomplishes that early on and keeps getting better as it goes on. It’s a brave new world when a band playing out of Nashville plays with this much soul, but The Criticals riff on this track’s dance vibe with such convincing bite it makes you an instant believer. Let’s hope anyone else reviewing this release notices how fine the vocals are across the board; “Treat Ya Right” features one of the best singing performances you’ll hear among the EP’s six songs and imbues the track with a lot of its swagger. The five star drumming helps as well.

The bass playing on Mimosa Hygiene is another strength among many. “Homebody” pounds its way into your memory, never too heavy handed, but insistent and intensely physical. The bass for this track is as outstanding as the previous track and kudos to the production for placing it so well within the mix. I hear “Kate Moss” as a definite set closer for the band’s live show. They do themselves well writing songs they can transfer over to their shows without losing a step. It follows much of the same template we hear in the previous two tracks, but it has a more anthemic character than those songs.

It ends with the acoustic song “Got No Love” has some light production gloss, but it sounds like the duo nailing an off the cuff first take. The vocals are once again a strong suit; the singing is emotional, yet artful, and commands your attention. You can walk away from Mimosa Hygiene with a couple of different takes on its quality. Some will demur at the predictable formula the band pursues over the bulk of the release. Others, however, can say that’s the gig – The Criticals are an indie rock band with sharp pop instincts and an edgy distinctive spin. I side with the latter.

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