REVIEW: Cycles Breaks Through On ‘Vacation’
Words by Randy Harris
In today’s music scene, Denver, CO represents a hub of hopefuls, making it difficult to stand out. Among the jam bands in town, however, Cycles has managed to set themselves apart. Perhaps it is the power trio format that allows them to spread their wings; perhaps it is the versatility of each of their influences. Or perhaps it is simply that this trio has formed at the perfect time to burst forth from the ether. The band, comprised of Patrick Harvey (guitar), Michael Wood (drums), and Tucker McClung (bass/vocals), has self-described themselves as “psychedelic rock fusion,” and I’m not sure I could find better words myself. After two EPs recorded in their basement, the trio is ecstatic to release their first full-length effort, Vacation.
The album opens up with the title track, “Vacation,” which emits a hopeful aura amidst the heavy rock of the primary riff. “The Aloe Parade” features a funky bass intro and seems to contain a cleverly concealed analogy to the legalization of marijuana in the lyrics. “Green” brings forth influences from the Steve Vai/Joe Satriani realm, which have not yet been revealed in this album, but will become more prevalent as the record progresses. Soaring lead guitar drives this tune into the clouds. “The Store” is driven by tight drums and rhythmic guitar and bass. I’m not sure what type of store could have driven them to write this song about it, but as a listener, I am certainly left extremely curious. The psychedelic guitar solo leaves so much to the imagination as to what might have been going through their heads at such a store, providing a mysterious veil over its story.
“Everything Must Go” kicks off the second half of the album with that same hopeful feeling that permeates this record. “Swing Bells” picks the groove back up with mesmerizing chords in the background and wavy vocals. A hypnotic, psychedelic bridge leads into a succinct outro. “Twilight” introduces a bit more a jazzy feel and really emphasizes the band’s songwriting ability. While this ability has been there all through the album, this tune, for some reason, really brings it to the forefront. “The Ruminator” takes a decidedly different turn, getting down and dirty with the groove. The band strategically pauses the tune before ripping into what can only be described as pure rage. Finally, “The Call” rounds out the nine-track record with a bang. The entirely instrumental composition calls on the versatility of each member of the band and ends with a distinct musical declaration of rock.
Overall, Vacation represents all that the band strives to be. The influences are present, but the sound is distinctly their own. The three members each embrace their roles in the power trio format. At any point in every song, it could be argued that any of them are leading. However, there is no tension; no competition. One other point worth mentioning is that only one song on the album is over five minutes. Over half of the album, in fact, is under four minutes! I bring this up because in today’s music scene, there seems to be a trend that leads younger bands to feel pressured to come up with complex compositions that last 10+ minutes in order to make their mark. With the release of Vacation, Cycles has proved that young bands can put an emphasis on songwriting, talent and versatility without forcing themselves into such complexities. Vacation was released on June 2, 2017 and is available now via SoundCloud, Bandcamp, iTunes, Spotify and more.