Sheffield indie sorts steal from all the right places on a charming debut.
Iain Moffatt 2011-03-30
Referring to your fanbase as the Bright Young Things: preposterously pretentious call, or actually an endearingly Smash Hits kind of manoeuvre? On all the evidence, it's probably a bit of both for The Crookes. After all, live they positively crackle with the sort of inclusively bonhomous pop charge that modern thinking seldom credits currently-little-league guitar bands with, but they've also managed to make a debut album that accommodates all the allusions that come with such a soubriquet. So yes, there's a litany of literary instincts. There's a rhapsodic regard for the bohemian. And, most of all, by crikey, does it spring in a chickenly manner.
In fact, it's pretty clear from the outset that they're aiming for the smart set. The tracklisting alone suggests a certain tendency for the wisely wide-eyed (Just Like Dreamers! Youth! Carnabetian Charms!), while rhythm guitarist Daniel Hopewell's lyrics frequently tend towards the Morrissey-ian. But rather than adopting a pained potency, he's a rather more traditionally sensitive figure, interested in the half-told tales of disparate and historically diverse characters – the opening Godless Girl alone explicitly casts the band as Angry Young Men musing cryptically on an ambiguous-eyed fellow lost soul, while By the Seine's troubled itinerant pavement artist and the opportunist rogues of The Crookes Laundry Murder, 1922 (based on a true story, true story fans) are outlined with a similar attention to detail.
Plus, there's invocation galore of indie like it used to be – quite some way, in fact, before any of the foursome were even born. Frontman George Waite may have an effusive vocal style that lurches consistently between the sugared confiding of Andy Bell (out of Erasure, of course, not Ride/Oasis et al) and the lugubrious bequiffed pipes of Charlie Rumble Strips, but, behind him, The Crookes are more Aztec Camera men. Consequently, absolutely joyous jangles abound – the superbly swinging Bloodshot Days opens in magnificently chiming style before recklessly chucking in some thoroughly rock'n'roll "ba-ba-ba-OOH!"s, with Bright Young Things hurtling Housemartins-ishly along (a comparison they underline with a London 0 Hull 4-cribbing cry of "get up off our knees!" in Bloodshot Days) – and there's a terrific tension between, say, the dynamism of I Remember Moonlight and its romantic reveries, or the mild melancholy and hot-coals-dancing that make up Chorus of Fools.
Alright, so you could argue, if you wanted, that there's something rather unbecoming about so much old-fashionedness in ones so young, but it's all done with sufficient charm to render such a standpoint churlish. They might not have the shock of the new on their side, and they're admittedly unlikely to shepherd in a fresh wave of post-Britpop, but at least The Crookes are stealing from all the right places.