On MCIII Mikal Cronin has aimed to “go big” with the soaring, poppier elements of his sound very much enhanced and to the fore. Strings are used to greater effect right from the off with ‘Turn Around’ gaining a balladeering quality from their inclusion.
Sounding closer to the likes of Alex Chilton or Teenage Fanclub than his more garage rock roots Cronin has certainly succeeded in lightening up his sound and the album comes across more like you’d expect the next Kurt Vile one to sound like rather than one on a path that seemed obvious for Cronin to take. As such whilst third track ‘Say’ contains the kind of drawn out mid-point guitar break (repeated at the close as well) that previous album MCII made great use of the cleaner sound of the production here renders it less of a compelling force.
The album’s obviously not distortion-free but, having slightly more polish than Cronin’s previous work, shades into rather generic territory a lot of the time. At this point you get the sense that fans will be clamouring for older songs in the live setting.
Side B of the album is described as a personal concept album in miniature but even before you get to the songs there you have the slow, string-heavy & mournful ‘I’ve Been Loved’ to get through. This fails, unfortunately, to be emotionally engaging and musically is kind of a drag. Thankfully the second side of the release begins promisingly with some more brio in the shape of ‘Alone’ and you can start to see Side A as having been a bit of an experiment with form and a warm up for the inclusion of all the previously mentioned newer elements into the tried & tested Cronin formula. Or possibly the better songs are just those that he’s invested more of himself and his life story in.
MCIII is therefore an album striving for more depth than was contained in MCII but which works best, over tracks six to 11, when the earlier album’s template is fiddled with the least. Development and growth are never bad things but when you can still come up with barnstorming tracks such as ‘Ready’ it’s clear that your heart can be on your sleeve without dubious dabbles in maudlin territory.
Mikal Cronin is appearing at Beaches Brew, amongst other events & venues in Europe this Summer.