Much was made of the legendary Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr’s arrival and departure to and from The Cribs, and though Ignore the Ignorant was definitely a viable progression for the band, the majority of Cribs fans would have to admit to secretly celebrating Johnny’s exit. After all, it was the three-piece’s first two old school Cribs albums (Self titled and The New Fellas) that led to Q magazine describing the band as ‘the biggest cult band in the UK’.
Both Ryan (Guitar + Vocals) and Gary (Bass + Vocals) have declared that the band were already progressing to the sound showcased on Ignore The Ignorant but from the outside looking in, Johnny’s input seemed clearly evident with more intricate guitar lines and a seemingly more polished production.
Despite this, during the early writing and recording stages of the new album, the pair also admitted - much to the old school Cribs fans’ delight - that some of the songs being wrote and the general feeling within the band harked back to the early days of messing around in garages back in Wakefield.
In the Belly of the Brazen Bull therefore seemed to be the acid test for how these two approaches would work together. If the unexpected release of ‘Chi-Town’ earlier on this year was to be used as a yardstick; holy shit it was going to work well.
the general feeling within the band harked back to the early days of messing around in garages back in Wakefield.
The album kicks off with a cluster of songs; ‘Glitters Like Gold’, the recent single ‘Come On, Be a No-One’, and ‘Jaded Youth’. All three of which are without doubt quintessentially ‘The Cribs’ but yet couldn’t be placed in any of the previous four albums without standing out like a sore thumb. Expect the line ‘and it’s time that you were told/ the young people thought you old’ from ‘Jaded Youth’ to be infectiously stuck in your head after the first listen.
‘Anna’ is next up and it’s a sweet love song with Gary crooning at one point ‘I’m not yet who I wanna be/so help me to change’. This one is more of a grower and upon reflection it’s a real highlight of the album.
The next two tracks, ‘Confident Men’ and ‘Uptight’, dampen the spirit somewhat but the bar was set so high by the first four a slight lull at some point was to be expected. Ross’ drums on ‘Confident Man’ however are excellent, channelling a Queen-esq ‘Innuendo’ vibe.
Any lull that occurs after ‘Anna’ is soon abolished when the screech of feedback kicks in on the unashamedly punk rock ‘Chi-Town’. I could go on and on about how good this track is but it’s probably best off left to these kids. Children know best, right?
The darkest moment on the album comes along in the form of ‘Back to the Bolthole’. Although Ryan has recently claimed to be reluctant about being too honest in his writing, this is a pure heart on the table song about his psychological struggles. It may divide peoples’ opinion but for those who like the song and love The Cribs, it could prove to be very important and personal to them. The spooky guitar riff and the monstrous chorus fit the melancholic lyrics perfectly.
‘I Should Have Helped’ provides a much needed bit of down-time after the intensity of ‘Back to the Bolthole’ but whether it will fly within a generation used to shuffling songs rather than listening to an album as a complete entity remains to be seen.
The album finishes with a flowing arrangement of four tracks self-produced at Abbey Studios. Yes, I know, I thought it sounded slightly pretentious when I first heard of it too, but in reality it’s four good songs sewn together really well to provide a satisfying end to a great album.
They are in fact the most progressive, uncompromising, and nicest indie rock band still active today
It seems fitting that the refrain of the final song ‘Arena Rock Encore with Full Cast’ is 'Sorry that it’s taken years/We were victims of our own ideals/But I’d rather be tied to myself than to anyone else.’ Anyone who believes The Cribs are merely just a LAD rock band fighting to cling on to the 00’s Kooks et al scene are greatly mistaken (they actively promote feminist politics and associate themselves heavily with the ‘riot grrrl’ scene of the 90s). They are in fact the most progressive, uncompromising, and nicest indie rock band still active today. Or as they’d put it ‘a bunch of weird moshers from Wakefield’.
In the Belly of the Brazen Bull is another great album to add The Cribs’ back catalogue. Possibly their greatest yet.
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