The ever-magnificent Cynics long ago blew past the borders
of any box marked “garage rock.” Sure, the Pittsburgh quartet still likes to hew to
certain ‘60s values of recording – stripped down, straightforward,
performance-oriented. But longtime leaders Michael Kastelic (vocals) and Gregg
Kostelich (guitar) never wrote mere pastiches designed to evoke memories of
shitty clubs in Germany
– they’ve always crafted actual songs, with strong melodies and lyrics that
range from witty to angry to poignant and all points in between.
In other words, the Cynics aren’t revivalists, but
traditionalists, with said tradition treated as being as relevant in 2011 as it
was in 1966. Spinning Wheel Motel,
the band’s seventh record and first since 2007’s How We Are, is evidence of that – this is the Cynics’ best LP since
their landmark 1989 slab Rock ‘n’ Roll.
With a cache of tunes strong even by Kastelic/Kostelich standards, the band is
at its most versatile here, gracing the grooves with snarling psychedelia
(“Zombie Walk”), jaunty pop (“Junk”) and, most especially, divine folk rock
(“Circles, Arcs and Swirls,” “Bells and Trains,” the title track) that reveals
just what the Cynics can do with these kind of elegiac melodies.
That’s not to say the band has forgotten the barnburners on
which it built its reputation – “Crawl,” “I Need More” and the celebratory
“Rock Club” would rock the balls off a Greek statue. In its nearly three-decade
history, the Cynics have rarely flagged; even so, it’s heartening to hear the
band hit yet another career peak on Spinning
Wheel Motel after so many years of service.
DOWNLOAD: “I Need
More,” “Junk,” “Bells and Trains” MICHAEL TOLAND