The Criticals’ Mimosa Hygiene packs quite a punch despite featuring only six tracks. It is a testament to how quick Cole Shugart and Parker Forbes established a shared language for their songwriting as The Criticals; these tracks play with all the confidence of a far more traditionally established unit than a neophyte band marking their debut release.

It opens with “Good Lookin’”, an authoritative rock workout bristling with youthful insolence and raw boned rock chops that stick with you. The rambunctious temperament defining each aspect of this performance makes a strong first impression on you.

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“Treat Ya Better” is a stylistic detour of sorts yet remains faithful to the sound and spirit of the opening performance. Production consistency is an underrated factor in how a band or artist’s first release makes an impact on listeners. The Criticals, despite their indie status, frame these songs in the best possible sonic frame. The quasi-disco/dance attributes of the arrangement aren’t cheap parody and the funky spark they demonstrate on the track is one of the EP’s early highlights.

“Homebody”, except for a slow and brief interlude, is an infectious guitar driven pop romp with frantic guitars and a melodic bass line among the EP’s best. The vocal matches the arrangement’s effervescent pop without ever pandering for the listener’s attention and the music shares the same laser focus heard in the other tracks. The Criticals understand how to perform straight ahead traditional guitar rock with a total absence of fuss and these cuts possess sharp economy. – each song gets to the point and gets out.

The second to last track “Kate Moss” is the EP’s finest moment. The Criticals pursue the anxious hopped up guitar theatrics of the earlier tracks to inspired ends with this cut but continue varying their musical attack with a confident use of dynamics within the arrangement. There is a formula apparent in the band’s rockier moments, but the formula is their own while sharing common reference points within rock tradition. There are edgier punk inflections in their music as well.

The finale “Got No Love” serves notice, however, that you can never pin The Criticals down as just one thing. They place the electric guitars aside for this closing curtain and, instead, offer listeners a mid-tempo acoustic track brimming with rock spirit despite its trappings. It has a commercial slant like much the earlier material despite the change in musical setting and strong backing vocals.

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The Criticals’ Mimosa Hygiene is a short yet fully realized studio release offering as much musical bang for your buck as a full length album. Their songwriting has deceptive simplicity; it takes superior skill you might underestimate to deliver such a well woven package of songs. The EP lacks any filler and shows off a band whose talents are ready for the prime time spotlight. I doubt they toil in indie shadows for long; working out of the Nashville area positions them well and more and more will take notice of their talents over time.

Sebastian Cole