If Kurt Cobain hadn't died, this is what it would sound like,
This review is from: mcii (Audio CD)
If Kurt Cobain hadn’t died, I imagine he’d be making music like Mikal Cronin is making right now. Cobain once described Nirvana as sounding like a cross between heavy metal and power pop (“Black Sabbath playing The Knack”) and made no secret of the fact that he liked the pop sensibility of The Beatles as well as the country-inflected acoustic-based melodies of R.E.M. and the Meat Puppets.
Mikal Cronin’s MCII is the closest thing I’ve heard to matching all of Cobain’s own descriptions, being similar in spirit to Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged in New York but more in tune with Cobain’s own desire to eschew the commercialism of grunge and play a more down-home brand of acoustic folk. As it turned out, Cobain shot himself, so we were denied hearing how he’d develop as a songwriter, but if you’re curious then MCII is probably the closest we’ll come to hearing Cobain’s unexplored musical leanings.
That’s not to say Mikal Cronin sounds exactly like the grunge legend – vocally, his natural register is higher and more nasally than Cobain’s but considering one of Cronin’s favourite albums is In Utero it’s easy to make comparison. Cronin’s grunge-rooted pop songcraft with added sprinklings of folk and balladry only serve to highlight the lineage to which he belongs, if not more so in his love of Beatlesque melodies and his many nods to scuzz punk and ‘60s sunshine pop.
As an accomplished bass player and member of other bands such as The Moonhearts and Ty Seagall, MCII is Mikal Cronin’s second album and marks the point at which I feel he’s finally ready to step out of the shadow of these other bands and forge a name for himself in his own right. His songwriting is faultless – the opening track ‘Weight’ literally soars from its lo-fi production values into almost Brian Wilson-esque grandiosity.
The acoustic intro of ‘Shout It Out’ erupts into a fuzz-addled racket with Cronin’s plaintive vocals leading the charge and the garage rock thrash of ‘Change’ soon takes a 180° turn by unexpectedly introducing orchestral strings into the mix. ‘See It My Way’ saddles up on a Nirvana-esque riff and rides off into jangle pop land with a crazy saxophonist and ‘Am I Wrong?’ sounds like The Beach Boys dropping acid at Haight-Asbury circa 1969.
The alt-country violins in ‘Peace of Mind’ only further entrench the diversity on Cronin’s musical palette and there’s even a piano ballad in the aptly titled ‘Piano Mantra.’ In its essence, this is a power pop album by a Nirvana acolyte who just so happens to be a terrific indie songwriter. For that reason alone, MCII deserves to be heard.