Cryptic Amalgam is the brainchild of Mike Groans. On his recent release Dusted he plays all the instruments, writes the songs and also worked with Craig Dobson on the recording and mixing. Groans stated that he wanted to “bring back that same catchy, dance-pop energy as Oingo Boingo, Devo and The Cars.” After taking a listen to Dusted I can definitely get a sense of those aforementioned bands (although I Ariel Pink also came to mind at times). I don’t think anything was quite as dance worthy as something you would hear from Devo or as catchy as some of The Cars’ notable songs but Groans finds an off-kilter style that I appreciated the more I listened to it.
The EP has five songs and Groans does a good job at providing different shades of his eclectic style. He obviously put some thought into making sure the songs were torn from the same cloth but still felt connected in some way.
He opens with “Homewrecker” which revolves around heavy guitars, a throbbing beat and a steady bass. It is somewhere between ‘70s UK punk and metal in some ways and Groans does a good job at blurring lines in a good way. Like a lot of punk music Groans ambiguously makes references to a broken economic system. He sings, “I need to relieve your need for greed / Can't stand to be a witness to your material sickness / I'll make you believe that you've been freed / So long to this gold necklace / It's mine to keep for instance.”
Next up is “Just Say So” which is pretty close to straight metal when it comes to the music. Is Groans singing on this track as well? I think so but his vocal style and delivery sounds different when compared to the first song. You can hear traces of Oingo Boingo, Devo and even early Nirvana on “Walk on By.” “Walk on By” is pretty catchy during the verse and the ascending chorus is a unique transition I enjoyed. “Class Action” is more or less a short ‘70s inspired punk with a number a notable moments.
Groans saves the best for last with “Soft Skills.” The song is quirky, has some engaging time changes and sounds like it could be a B-side on an Ariel Pink album. His lyrics are a mix between non sequiturs and poignancy which combined for a good mix in my opinion.
Dusted is a solid EP and I would encourage you to spend some time with it if you give a listen and think it's not your cup of tea. These songs grow on you and seem to age very well.
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