The Cynics – “Rock ‘n’ Roll” (1989)

January 1, 2009 at 1:48 am (Fran Fried, Music, Reviews & Articles)


This album came out right at the very end of the 80s and was the third album by these 60’s garage rock mavens. Fran Fried reviews this from the Jan. 28, 1990 edition of the Waterbury Republican newspaper (from my hometown)… 

The Cynics, Down to Essentials, Improve with Third Album

Maybe it’s a good thing this Pittsburgh garage combo hasn’t been signed to a major label – yet, anyway.

The Cynics have shown steady improvement over the years – a decent but uneven debut LP, Blue Train Station, in ’86; a good, solid followup, Twelve Flights Up, in the summer of ’88, and now this. Their third album isn’t merely their best, it’s an early candidate for ‘90’s Top 10 list. Is there anybody out there listening?

After some personnel changes (keyboardist Beki Smith left after the last album, bassist Steve Magee departed after the new release), the core of the band is down to the bare essentials – guitarist Gregg Kostelich and singer Michael Kastelic. Without the organ part, I thought the group would suffer. Wrong. It’s tight, unclean and far from tame – and it doesn’t require a truckload of mousse.

You don’t believe me? Drop the needle on the opening cut, “Baby What’s Wrong.” They hit you with an all-out fuzz assault, an intense, blazing grind which sets the pace. Then skip to the last song on side 1, “Cry Cry Cry.” The “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” intro quick-dissolves into a prolonged screeeeeemarama, washed down with a violent late-‘60s bad-trip fuzz drone. Flip the record and find the second-to-last track, “Last Time Around,” and catch some more vicious fuzztone grind, an act of fiery desperation. It’s the soundtrack of the best ‘60s action-biker-acid B-movie you can conjure in your mind.

Then backtrack through the album a little bit. Kastelic stretches his voice farther than before on “Tears Are Coming” with surprising results, as the song shuffles between subdues and flaming guitar. Also, catch a couple of leftovers from the old Beki Smith days, the whirling keyboard dervish “Way It’s Gonna Be,” and “Got My Way,” another relentless organ line with a guitar riff in the bridge that brings up the best of both the ‘60s and ‘80s.

Fran Fried

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