For those of you who don’t know Mikal Cronin, you best educate yourself. With two incredible albums already under his belt (aptly MCI and MC II), it’s fair to say he knows what he’s doing by now. Having played in Ty Segall’s live band as a bassist, he’s certainly no stranger to huge crowds, sweaty kids, and good ol’ face melting rock n’ roll.
The album is split into two parts: the first five being an assortment of singles, and the last six accumulating into a vague concept album with the tracks numbered in roman numerals. Both sides start with a shimmering string section, the concept side featuring some beautiful composition in particular. Both have songs that are fast and slow, heavy and soft, but neither side has what you’d come to expect from Mikal Cronin.
Upon playing the very first note of the album, one thing is apparent. It’s not a guitar playing that note… it’s a violin. Although this isn’t surprising, or unexpected, (orchestral instrumentation was featured on previous albums) it sets up the album for what it is: a segue from typical garage rock into something more accessible. This seems like it might be Cronin’s ambitious attempt to finally crossover into the mainstream singer-songwriter world, which he is aptly suited for. Fans might’ve wanted him to stay on the dark side a little longer, but those who are true to his music should have no issue following him on the new album.
However, it doesn’t come without sacrifices. Cronin’s sound is more refined now, a little more modern rock, a tad more like a tampon commercial. The songwriting’s still there, but where it used to be buried in guitars, it has now been brought full focus into the epicenter of the album with lush soundscapes that are more pretty than fierce. His voice is clearer than it’s ever been, and lyrically this album is a step up from its predecessors. Cronin has taken a leap forward, yet his best songwriting still shines when things get heavy. He hasn’t quite made the transition to an acoustic songster yet though, as exemplified in songs like “I’ve Been Loved” and “Different” which tend to drag like a rudder in shallow water. On the contrary, songs like in “Ready” which brings back the fuzz and craziness reminiscent of MCI, are some of Cronin’s best dabbling to date.
Cronin’s fine arts degree shines throughout the whole album, as he experiments with a myriad of instruments you usually wouldn’t hear churning out of the Los Angeles garage-rock scene. Seven tracks into the album, “Gold” features one of the best breakdowns in a while, showcasing Cronin’s exemplary musicianship as he shreds on what sounds like a Middle-Eastern guitar of sorts. Conversely, no album is ever complete without cowbell – we always need more cowbell – and track “Say” offers just that and a melting pot of noise explosion on the backend.
The album still manages to be cohesive though; beneath the experimentation lays Cronin’s impregnable voice, and not voice in the sense of singing but in the sense of individual artistry, so to speak. It’ll be very interesting to see what he does with the album live, and if he retains that garage-rock persona he’s gotten very well acquainted with. One thing is for certain though, MCIII is worth a listen, even if it takes you a couple times to realize how much detail Cronin has put into it. Who knows where he’s going to go from here, but upwards and outwards seem to be completely rational conclusions.