Release Date: May 15, 2012
Record label: Wichita
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock
Ten years into their career, The Cribs are still one of the most misunderstood bands in Britain. Their problem – and it’s always plagued the Wakefield trio – is that the innate outsider ethos which they embody has always been at odds with the fact they can’t help but write fucking great pop songs.While their self-titled 2004 debut reveled in rough edges and the DIY-est of spirits, it was also riddled with hooks and the straight-shooting playfulness of a pop record. Same with their third album, 2007’s ‘Men’s Needs, Women’s Needs, Whatever’, which is full of festival-baiting choruses, but counteracts them with ‘Be Safe’, a sprawling, spoken-word monologue from Sonic Youth guitarist Lee Ranaldo.
You probably know this but on the whole people either love or hate The Cribs. They’re a marmite band. They should be called The Polarisers, seeing as The Cribs is such a rubbish band name. Therefore, considering some of your views on what you would prefer the general reviewing styles and policy to be on DiS, here is a simple decision tree, which may mark the start of a revolutionary journalistic co-operative between reader and writer.
It may be Johnny Marr–less, but the brotherly Jarman trio certainly isn’t rudderless after the departure of that high-profile guitarist. The indie scrappers’ fifth album is as cocky, defiant and shouty as earlier efforts. Chunky and chugging “Glitters Like Gold” kicks off the proceedings, then sneering fuzz-rock anthem “Come On, Be a No-One” cranks it up a notch.
Johnny Marr left the Cribs before they made In the Belly of the Brazen Bull, and it's not hard to notice the difference between this album and the one they recorded with Marr, 2009's Ignore the Ignorant. Nearly all of the polish Marr and producer Nick Launay added to that set is gone here, and the Jarman brothers return to their classic trio lineup with an explosion of pent-up energy. "Glitters Like Gold" roars out of the gate, and the first half of the album follows suit, with the Jarmans reveling in the volume of songs like "Jaded Youth" and "Anna"'s crunchy power pop.
In the rare event you catch someone mourning the slow death of major labels, it's usually due to its presumed effect on the "career artist"-- the Springsteen, the Dylan, the Neil Young, slow starters who'd never have fulfilled their destiny without the proper executive patience and financial resources. And yet, for all its meat-grinder stereotypes, UK's "major indie" realm has produced Foals, Friendly Fires, the Horrors, Bombay Bicycle Club, and the Cribs as proof that you don't have to be a Hall of Famer to follow a bungled debut with a bizarre and interesting career arc these days. In 2004, the Cribs were teens cashing in on the post-Franz Ferdinand, post-post-Strokes gold rush; since then, Johnny Marr joined and then quit their band, Lee Ranaldo spit some spoken word on their third album, and Alex Kapranos, Nick Launay, and Edwyn Collins can all list "the Cribs" in their production credits.
Someone once told me you’re either a Rolling Stones or a Beatles fan. Which is to say, you love either kick-ass rock and roll swagger or earnest displays of pop intricacy. As far as I can tell, no one’s imposed this limitation on UK rockers The Cribs. The trio’s fifth album, In the Belly of the Brazen Bull, fuses the opposing dichotomies, offering heavy noise and bravado alongside emotional vulnerability to satisfy anyone on the rock and roll spectrum.
The party line for any guitar band getting into year or album six or seven is that time has tempered them, that their comfort level as a band, as songwriters, has matured to the point where the piss and vinegar of their early material has been shelved for confidence in quietude. It's now year eleven for the Cribs, and maybe it's because the band's success has been one of those slowly building affairs that never seems to happen anymore, but the Cribs haven't mellowed. In fact, there are moments where the band sounds more aggressive than ever.
The CribsIn The Belly Of The Brazen Bull[Wichita; 2012]By David Wolfson; May 29, 2012Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOGTweetIt’s been over ten years since the release of Is This It turned The Strokes’ brand of guitar pop into the “next big thing” in England. In the fervor following that album, there was a crop of bands, as is typical of trends like this, that popped up and capitalized on the hype by following a similar template. Atypically of such hype-driven trends though, a surprising amount of bands spawned from this craze have been able to transcend it and find more lasting success with different sounds.
With production duties split between two of America's most interesting producers, Dave Fridmann (Flaming Lips) and Steve Albini (Godspeed You! Black Emperor), the Cribs' fifth album could've taken some disparate, noisy and/or arty directions. But Brazen Bull is a cohesive, if lengthy, album that offers only occasional audio reminders of who was behind the board. The Jarman brothers have grown up since their early days of youthful shouting and exuberant choruses.
The Cribs' fifth album couldn't be more 90s if it styled its hair into curtains, donned a Global Hypercolor T-shirt and bought itself a ticket to Lilith Fair. In the Belly … is a well-executed homage to lo-fi slacker rock, to the extent that it uses two producers – Dave Fridmann (Mercury Rev, Sleater-Kinney) and Steve Albini (Nirvana, Breeders) – synonymous with that era. It suits them, particularly when they adorn the feedback and squalling riffs with singalong melody, as they do on the raucous Chi-Town.
The interesting idea about Johnny Marr and The Cribs, I think, is that they don’t really need him. Undoubtedly, their infamy increased without question during his tenure, but, I’m going to say this again: they don’t need him. And not to need the most virtuous guitarist of his generation is quite astounding, in the sense that, they never really needed him in the first place, but hey, who’s not going to have him join their band.
The Cribs incite very defined responses to their music. You either are a diehard supporter or you don't get it. Interestingly, no matter which camp you fall into, your take on the music is the same. The Northern England trio (who briefly expanded into a foursome at the time of Ignore the Ignorant with the joining of erstwhile Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr) started as a garage rock outfit.
While casual listeners of The Cribs might suggest that the band have always stuck with the same indie rock sound, those with a closer affection to the brothers Jarman will know this to be not quite true. Fairly subtle changes they may be between records, but the tweaks are most certainly significant ones for those who care. And with all the media build-up to the release of this, their fifth full-length, hinting at a return to their roots, lots of Cribs fans could be getting quite excited.Let’s clear something up: this is not a return to their roots.
Lung-busting choruses abound on this tunefully angular fifth LP. Noel Gardner 2012 The Cribs’ level of popularity has been a puzzling fit for them since at least their second album, 2005’s The New Fellas. This dramatically titled long-player is their fifth, and once again highlights a band with grand ambitions and high ideals regarding their career, but who seem most keen to uphold the spirit of the fiercely independent groups who first inspired them to make music.
The Cribs have always sounded more (and more fun than) the sum of their influences. Though proselytes of righteous US indie, K Records and riot grrl, their northern tones and very English scrappiness kept them far from being a fanzine-sniffing lo-fi tribute act. Similarly, the tension between twin songwriters' Ryan and Gary Jarman's different approaches (Ryan, fast, furious raw and punky, Gary more measured and subtle and melodic) gave them a distinctive tension that raised them above bare-bones indie rock brawlers.