• Critics
  • Braintree (Black Vinyl) 1995 

The Critics fit into the long line of great Illinois power-pop combos, following a road paved by Cheap Trick, Shoes, Off Broadway and others. This talented trio (vocalist/guitarist Kevin Mantegna, drummer Marty Winer and bassist Todd Rusin) worked as the house band for Danny Bonaduce’s Chicago-area radio show before recording Braintree with a little help from pals like the Elvis Brothers’ Rob Elvis and the Idea’s Phil Angotti. (Before he was in the Critics, Mantegna released a fine solo album entitled Communicate.)

Issued on Shoes’ label, Braintree falls somewhere between that group’s wistful pop and the muscular rock of In Color-era Cheap Trick. The songs (written by Mantegna and Winer, separately and in collaboration) are across-the-board fine; the band’s sharp playing, crisp harmonies and uncanny melodic know-how mesh perfectly. Listen to the early-Who-influenced “You Can’t Lie,” the pslightly psychedelic “Love Discreet” and the forceful-but-not-overbearing “Got No Heart” and “Lucky Thing.”

[John M. Borack]