Friday, 20 July 2012

Glitters Like Gold

Ah, The Cribs. Anyone who's ever been a few pages back on this blog knows of my obsession with the Wakefield punk rockers, and I have to say, unlike some of my other musical passions, my love for this band has remained constant for years. The Cribs are brothers who've been playing under that name since 2001 - their 11-year career has spawned 5 albums so far, each different to the one before, but all sharing the common features that their cult following loves - an underlying punk ethos, idiosyncratic guitars and the edgy, slightly off-key vocals of the twin Jarmans, Ryan and Gary.

The Cribs haven't made many concessions to the modern music industry. There have been no American accents, no fashion labels giving out lanyards at gigs, no abandonment of the bands they professed to love in their teens. Thanks to The Libertines and The Strokes, the early noughties was a good time for The Cribs to launch, as that wave of indie was decidedly in vogue - but they rejected the scene that had adopted them, denouncing the sexism in the lad-rock around them and writing the cutting tracks 'Hey Scenesters' and 'Mirror Kissers' to slate the very people that shouted their lyrics at gigs.

The slightly derisive edge didn't seem to hurt the fans' feelings though - the hipsters probably didn't regard themselves as such anyway. The Cribs were gathering momentum just as that indie scene melted away in around 2008 to make way for singer-songwriters and electro-indie of the sort peddled by Friendly Fires, White Lies and their compatriots. The Cribs released what was probably their most well-known album, Men's Needs, Women's Needs, Whatever during the final throes of this scene, making an unexpected splash with the track 'Men's Needs', an enigmatic attack on misogyny. They'd signed to a bigger label and got Franz Ferdinand's Alex Kapranos in to do the production, but their third album still didn't concede much to pop - the uncompromisingly angry 'Our Bovine Public' is as seething as anything on The New Fellas, and the musicianship was getting increasingly adept, Ryan's lead guitar in particular (though it had been incredibly raw in the first two albums, admittedly).

After this success, The Cribs took on another member - Johnny Marr of The Smiths, one of their principal influences. I still think this was a match made in heaven, though they got some inevitable stick from some of the fans; I saw them live for the first, second and third time during Marr's tours with the band, and enjoyed every performance - he fit right in. I felt that the addition of a second guitar enriched the atmosphere of Ignore the Ignorant too. Though the anti-Marr feeling was oddly strong, I think they came through it unscathed. Tracks like 'We Share the Same Skies', 'Emasculate Me' and 'Save Your Secrets' are as worth listening to as anything of theirs, and much more skilful than early tracks like 'The Watch Trick', which have a certain raw appeal but sound like a load of teenagers messing about with a 4-track by comparison. That's almost certainly what they were.

In the Belly of the Brazen Bull, their newest album, is the one they always wanted to make - through the thick feedback and fuzziness, you can hear Comet Gain, Sonic Youth, The Smiths - all those bands they've loved throughout their career. It may have a Smithsy touch, but Marr departed from the band this year, because - well, who knows? Marr's a musical nomad at the moment anyway, probably scared of commitment after his embittered marriage to Morrissey. The Cribs are a trio once more, and album number five gives two fingers to expectation, in that it's managed to keep the ground-roots style, but it's also got technique and cryptic but profound lyrics, and it still made it into the top ten, even without Marr.

Here's a video of them performing 'Glitters Like Gold', their new single, for Radio 1. I like this version because the vocals are more pronounced than on the recording, and it's organic - they were made to be a live band.

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