Rockin' uncle Johnny leads The Cribs from punk adolescence to pop adulthood.
Andrzej Lukowski 2009-08-24
The myth that Johnny Marr has underachieved since storming out of The Smiths can mostly be attributed to one thing: that despite a glowing CV running from Talking Heads to Modest Mouse, the indie era’s most celebrated guitarist hasn’t really produced much in the way of balls-out guitar music since 1986’s The Queen Is Dead.
His motivation behind joining Yorkshire indie punk siblings The Cribs becomes clear about a nanosecond into their fourth album, Ignore the Ignorant. This would be that balls-out guitar record. Stomping in on an imperious riff, the opening We Were Aborted might as well have simply been entitled Here’s Johnny. A gleaming chrome strut, it’s all forward momentum and dynamic fills, a souped-up soapbox from which Ryan Jarman can bark stridently. Though important not to suppose Marr is responsible for the entirety of the music, a gambling man wouldn’t hesitate wagering on the origins of the snaking melodic twists that usher in the likes Cheat on Me and We Share the Same Skies. He’d pretty much bet the farm when it came to the Panic-alike title track.
Of course, so far we’re talking as if this is a good thing. In fact, doubling the guitars and bringing in a slickly accomplished player isn’t necessarily the logical prescription for a band whose best moments to date have been based on ribcage-rattling rawness and Ryan and twin Gary’s righteous vocal bile. It still takes a bit of venom from them to get the poppier songs going, and frequently Ignore the Ignorant lacks fire in the belly, in danger of sounding like an accomplished, ‘mature’ guitar record.
Fortunately it’s not just an album of pop songs. The Sonic Youth sprawl of Bug City is magnificent, an eerie stumble fitfully illuminated by glowing hails of meteoric feedback, while Stick to Yr Guns’ erratic ascent from down at heel plucking to symphonic crescendo is pure exhilaration.
All punks have to grow up someday if they don’t want to look embarrassing; the Jarmans could have found a much worse guide than rockin’ uncle Johnny to lead them to adulthood.