Release Date: Mar 24, 2015
Record label: RED Music Solutions
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
This will be the final piece I write about anything related to The Cribs that begins with direct reference to the genuine crime that is their misrepresentation by the press since Men’s Needs, Women’s Needs, Whatever. That’s less because I’m sick of flogging that same dead horse and more because, with this new record, even those who stick most staunchly to that utterly redundant idea - that the Wakefield trio ever deserved to be lumped in with so many of the ‘landfill indie’ outfits of the noughties - will find it difficult not to be won over by what is an extraordinarily strong contender for a title that I was already convinced Sleater-Kinney had wrapped up in January - that of the year’s most glorious pop album. Men’s Needs was scored through with what can probably best be described as catchy punk numbers; the likes of “Our Bovine Public”, “Girls Like Mystery” and “I’m a Realist” all had a message to sell, and the Jarmans evidently felt that having the songs root their melodies directly into the listener’s brain stem was the best way to go about delivering it.
The Cribs have worked with plenty of A-list collaborators over the years, including Edwyn Collins, Franz Ferdinand's Alex Kapranos, Johnny Marr, and Steve Albini. Nevertheless, having Ric Ocasek produce For All My Sisters was an especially inspired choice, considering that the band conceived of the album as a set of pop songs (an Albini-produced punk album was set to be released soon after). Much of the Cribs' charm comes from their volatile mix of rough and sweet -- especially on their previous album In the Belly of the Brazen Bull -- so focusing on just one of those aspects could have diminished their music.
You can’t fault the Cribs on their choice of collaborators. After working with the esteemed likes of Johnny Marr, Steve Albini and Lee Ranaldo earlier in their career, the Jarman brothers have recruited Cars frontman Ric Ocasek to produce this, their sixth studio album. It’s a fitting choice: For All My Sisters finds the Wakefield indie trio pushing their gleefully ramshackle sound towards poppier parameters.
If you like guitar music – and I mean, reaaally like guitar music - then there really aren’t many reasons why you should display even the slightest trace of apathy towards The Cribs. One of the most consistent, prolific and vital bands of the past decade, the Jarman trio have built their strong, DIY-centric reputation by writing the kind of joyful and true-spirited music that continues to dominate indie dancefloors, slay festival tents and set the bar of integrity oh so high for other bands. Shit, they still use a van for touring after all these years – you wouldn’t get that with fellow mid-Noughties indie peer Ricky 'The Voice' Kaiser Chief, would you? No, you just wouldn’t.
“It weren’t me best one, but who cares?” That throwaway snatch of conversation at the end of Be Safe, from The Cribs‘ superlative Men’s Needs, Woman’s Needs, Whatever album was met with a chuckle and approving mutter of “that’s the spirit” from guest vocalist Lee Ranaldo, but it also seems to sum up the Wakefield trio’s career since that high watermark. For Men’s Needs… was a truly great album – full of intelligent, thoughtful pop songs wrapped up in a fuzzy, scuzzy little package that just screamed attitude. Since then, we’ve had two albums from the Jarman brothers, neither of which have really lived up to their 2007 masterpiece.
These are pivotal times in Cribsland. The Jarman brothers’ spell with long-time label Wichita and brief self-imposed hiatus have expired, and they return with promises of two new albums – one all-out pop, one all-out punk – and everything to play for. Their critical standing as one of the most consistently adored guitar bands of the past decade remains as firm and reliable as the incompetence of Apprentice contestants, but the fate of Ash, Supergrass et al beckons – years of diminishing returns and dinnertime festival slots – unless they make a Monkeys-level leap into the Big Time.
The Cribs have always been one of most tonally interesting Brit bands of recent times. From the hands-on influence of Johnny Marr (ex-Modest Mouse) to the Morrisey style of lyrical expression, there's always been something different that catches my eye with each album. When it comes to For All My Sisters, the three brothers have diluted their sound into an indie-pop piece of art.
Here's an incomplete list of people who have either produced, collaborated with, or been a member of the Cribs in the past decade: Johnny Marr, Edwyn Collins, Alex Kapranos, Lee Ranaldo, Nick Launay, Steve Albini, Dave Fridmann. Which is to say that the Cribs are usually the least renowned people in the studio on any given Cribs album. The Jarman brothers can claim another hall-of-famer as alumnus after For All My Sisters, as they put power-pop patron saint Ric Ocasek behind the boards for their sixth LP.
I don’t know about you, but I often wonder what spurs a musician’s attitude when the end result offers the impression they’re only obsessed with angst and insurgency. The Cribs create quite a racket, and while most of it is fairly convincing, there seems to be a lot of unsettled edginess underscoring it all. “It’s not easy, but it’s harder to just admit it,” they wail on the driving diatribe “Mr Wrong”.