Purposefully archaic fare that sets toes tapping when it's not sending them to sleep.
Mike Diver 2012-07-03
In the 1990s and early 00s, Fierce Panda was a supplier of shiny new indie acts to the British mainstream. Through its doors came and went Ash, Supergrass and Coldplay, and the list goes on: Keane’s Everybody’s Changing was first released by the London-based label.
Lately, the Fierce Panda brand has become more associated with a less-visible standard of band. Names like Sissy and the Blisters and Hatcham Social haven’t conquered the commercial middle ground. But that’s not prevented Fierce Panda from maintaining its original modus operandi: to put out what it wants, by whoever it wants. And credit to them for doing so.
So, to The Crookes. Objectively, the Sheffield four-piece offer little to spill one’s pint over in a pub’s live room, mid-paced and purposefully archaic rockers comprising the majority of this second long-player. There are sepia tinges about the edges of several tracks, warmly rendered like strong-lagered Richard Hawley cuts but without the same heart and soul.
There are lyrical and instrumental tropes referencing a time the band’s too young to have lived through; a feeling of 50s Americana and antique rock’n’roll records left to warp in a loft. Tracks become frenetic but are dispossessed of a certain spark, a trigger to commence sweaty jigging.
The opening brace of Afterglow and Maybe in the Dark sets a tone that is largely maintained. These are breezy, boisterous affairs where guitars are attacked without the antagonist ever forgetting the essence of melody, and vocals find the slipstream of quieter passages to ring through clearly. Toe-tappers, one might call them, if they could be relied upon to twitch one’s extremities. But so familiar do the songs feel, even on a first listen, that digits only comply half the time.
The Crookes better hold attentions when they slow down. The I Love You Bridge is a beautiful closer with a committed, affecting lead vocal from George Waite, and the a cappella intro to American Girls is of equal appeal. But the title track encapsulates the ordinariness of this outfit: breathless bluster atop fundamental foundations, it’s more Slightly Irritated than a Fierce anything.