Mikal Cronin Makes a Splash

09/21/2011 4:00 AM |

Mikal Cronin
Mikal Cronin

(Trouble in Mind)

Can’t say you ever pegged Thee Oh Sees frontman John Dwyer as a flute guy, eh? But, sure enough, there he is, blasting through a spidery flute solo within the first minutes of fellow psych-rock overachiever Mikal Cronin’s debut full-length. This happens again and again on the album—deft maneuvers in which Cronin lures you in with a sweetened, California-baked hook, only to hit you with something completely off-the-wall. Menacing drum fills, tweaked-out guitar, emotive whistling. It’s a constant game of lurching forward and then pulling back, turning an unassuming indie-rock record into a fully immersive experience.

In cobbling it together, Cronin sounds like a refined version of Dwyer’s Oh Sees at times, and Kurt Vile covering Girls at others, which thereby alludes to Harry Nilsson, The Animals and post-Rubber Soul Beatles, of course (the record begins with what is essentially Cronin’s take on Abbey Road’s “Because”). Suffice to say there’s a lot to grab ahold of here, especially from a name that’s coming relatively out of nowhere, despite him dabbling in fuzz-obliterated garage group The Moonhearts and with longtime collaborator Ty Segall. Just as the countless scrambled bits between bulldozer of a song “Green & Blue” and the revved-up parts on “Gone” start to suffocate the album, Cronin clears the waters, his knack for timing impeccable. “I don’t want apathy” he sings, latching the line to an impossibly hooky chorus on the second track. He cuts through the clutter early on to set the tone. In an ever-present psych-rock scene, some will stand out. This here is a case in point.