“Call me a fool/ New York City’s too far/ They’re too good for us anyways,” Parker Forbes croons in the second verse of the song “Homebody.” Though he ponders “How would we fit in?” (and, as an aside, “What would I drink in their bars?”), the answer is this Nashville-based duo would fit in quite well in the Big Apple. The Criticals—singer/bassist Forbes and guitarist/keyboardist Cole Shugart—do a great job of recreating the sounds of the 2000s garage rock revival on their debut EP while managing to avoid sounding slavishly derivative, which is no mean feat.
The duo primarily manages this trick by attacking from many different directions. The aforementioned “Homebody” comes closest to Strokes worship, with Forbes’ bassline bobbing up and down between Shugart and JP Burr’s dueling guitars (one strummy and jangly, the other ringing arpeggios—very Albert Hammond, Jr. and Nick Valensi), but the song’s lyrical wit is much more than just a dirty denim costume the band put on. “Just for the Weekend” has a more skipping cadence to the vocals and guitars, sounding like the Strokes playing through Vampire Weekend’s guitar pedals. But the slacker-like deference of these songs is countered by “Treat Ya Better,” a disco-era Rolling Stones throwback replete with drummer Andrew Grasso’s disco beat and some grooving “Oh-oh-oh! Wa-OH!” female backing vocals, and “Good Lookin’,” a hard-charging Jet-style rocker. “Got No Love” closes out the EP on a completely different track, offering up an acoustic country stomp like something off of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club’s Howl as filtered through the psychedelia of the Vines.
The Mimosa Hygiene EP blazes by with six songs in 17 short minutes. It’s not all golden —“Good Lookin’” in particular has a great ironic rallying cry for a chorus (“I used to be good lookin’!”) and is probably a gas live, but its meat-and-potato riffage is easily the mini-album’s weak point. But the Criticals’ musicianship is strong enough, their stylistic approach is varied enough, and their lyrical wit is sharp enough to make this EP worth a listen, and a future full-length something to keep an eye out for. | Jason Green