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 results are as paradoxical as might be expected from a band that, in the aftermath of their last album Ignore the Ignorant, released a seven-inch on esteemed riot grrrl-boosting indie label Kill Rock Stars, then supported Aerosmith on a European arena tour.
Much of this album – 14 songs long, with the closing four strung together in the form of an ambitious suite – makes use of large, lung-busting choruses (Come On, Be a No-One does this especially earwormishly). Its production is also lavish and painstaking: save for Chi-Town, a wistful relationship reminiscence recorded by Steve Albini, The Cribs made ample use of indie über-producer David Fridmann’s Tarbox Road studio and the legendary Abbey Road.
One of Fridmann’s highest profile jobs, Weezer’s uneasy second album curveball Pinkerton, is a useful point of comparison for the contradictory outlook here. Tunes are plentiful, but competing with angularity and dissonance to establish a prevailing mood.
Back to the Bolthole might be the heaviest Cribs song to date, wailing guitar overload that would get an approving nod from J Mascis. It’s followed by the album’s quietest moment, I Should Have Helped – an intimate tribute to 90s American lo-fi that would have you questioning the running order, if you thought this trio of Yorkshire-raised brothers didn’t revel in this kind of mildly confounding behaviour.
As for the closing suite mentioned earlier, it begins with Stalagmites, whose Pavement-ish guitar squalls are as spiky as their title implies; then we move through harmony-soaked romantic psychedelia and finish on Arena Rock Encore with Full Cast. As much as that title might convey gentle self-mockery, it’s attached to arguably the band’s most bombastic few minutes in their decade-long career. Moreover, they play it like it was their natural calling.