Formed in 2018, The Criticals are a Nashville based rock duo combining the musical and songwriting talents of Parker Forbes and Cole Shugart. They cite a variety of influences on their output ranging from The Doors to Jane’s Addiction, but they have established their own creative identity a little more than a year into their existence. Their six song EP Mimosa Hygiene places a high premium on energy and tight sinewy rhythms, but it ultimately hinges on high quality songwriting and convincing performances. They have an identifiable style out of the gate with this EP release and they will only build on it with successive efforts.
“Good Lookin’” rates as the EP’s most incendiary number on both a lyrical and musical level. Later tracks surpass the torrid instrumental attack displayed by this performance, but none of the later tracks couple it with such a withering lyrical point of view, darkly comedic and sarcastic in turns; it’s an excellent choice for leading off the EP. “Treat Ya Better” reveals to listeners for the first time their capacity to surprise.
Shugart and Forbes unleash their love for knife-edge funked up guitar with this performance. The bass playing is lights out as well; it settles into an early groove locking in with the swinging drums. It’s impossible to deny the physicality of this track and how it engages listeners; it will be a staple of their live performances for some time to come.
“Just for the Weekend” has stellar drumming as well, one of many highlights present on this release, and illustrates the well rounded song craft fueling these compositions. The Criticals never place a foot wrong in any of these six songs. Transitions never play forced, choruses unconvincing, or instrumental touches overwrought or misplaced. They sound like first takes, in some senses, thanks to the irresistible bounce the band maintains throughout.
They reach another peak with “Kate Moss”. The song, in some ways, is a realization of the preceding two – the musical themes and motifs of the earlier tracks are writ large during this song, yet the band never stretches the track past its breaking points and keeps things close to the bone. The closer “Got No Love” explores new territory again with its acoustic sound. Nothing about the previous five tracks communicates the impression The Criticals can tackle this kind of material, but they shift gears with impressive ease and close Mimosa Hygiene on a memorable note.
The tandem of Forbes and Shugart generate impressive creativity between them. There’s nothing included on this release pushing the boundaries of popular music or challenging what you expect from modern songwriting, but the duo has songwriting imagination to burn and an effortless gift for melody. The latter has timeless value, particularly in the modern era. It’s those hooks, for the most part, that stick with you after hearing this release, but The Criticals boast clear intelligence however setting them heads and shoulders above many of their peers. Mimosa Hygiene is substantive and entertaining, never shallow or coy.