The gig at Rock City coincided with the release of The Cribs’ eagerly awaited fifth album ‘In the Belly of the Brazen Bull’.
Yep, you read that right ‘eagerly awaited fifth album.
When was the last time you heard that phrase?
In an era littered with bands who’ve been heralded as the saviours of rock ‘n’ roll on the strength of their debut (think The Strokes, The Libertines, Glasvegas…) then failed to muster a follow capable of sustaining their initial impact, the buzz surrounding the release of ‘…Brazen Bull’ sets the Jarman brothers apart in itself.
And despite the presence of touring guitarist David Jones on stage, The Cribs are the Jarman brothers once again – Johnny Marr having left the band in what seem like strained if not acrimonious circumstances last year.
Early impressions of their first album since reverting back to a three-piece are that it’s their most ambitious work to date, but also their hardest and dirtiest.
The driving punk riffs, stalking bass lines and cavernous drums often bring Nirvana to mind – particularly ‘In Utero’. Although like that album, it has its moments of fragile beauty, too.
The deeper, darker Cribs songs that have emerged this time round are said to be a reflection of the troubled period Ryan apparently endured during the writing of ‘…Brazen Bull’.
He may have been struggling with self loathing issues but tonight, whether he’s attacking his surf-green stratocaster and cranking into opener ‘Chi Town’ or leading a sing-a-long of’ It Was Only Love’, the black spectre of depression couldn’t seem further away.
The driving punk riffs, stalking bass lines and cavernous drums often bring Nirvana to mind
The already familiar ‘Chi Town’ is followed up by a slew of singles including ‘I’m a Realist’ and ‘Hey Scenesters’. It’s a bit surprising to hear songs that would be rapturously received as encores aired so early in the set. But frontloading the set with such big tunes results in the night kicking off at a blistering pace.
Perhaps that was a band ploy to exhaust the crowd early on and ensure they don’t get too restless while they showcase newies like ‘Anna’ and ‘Back to the Bolthole’.
With fans having only a matter of hours with which to acquaint themselves with them, the new songs are understandably received slightly less raucously than established anthems like ‘Mirror Kissers’. But a glance around shows that plenty of pre-orderers and Spotifiers already know the likes of ‘Jaded Youth’ well enough to sing along with.
Returning to more familiar territory Ryan playfully conducts an indie rock version of the clap-o-meter, offering the crowd a choice between debut album faves ‘Baby Don’t Sweat’ and ‘Direction’ – with the latter winning out tonight.
During moments like these he engages with the audience so naturally and with such goofy good humour, it’s easy to forget this is the guy who’s ‘always had a real problem with getting down’.
Ditto when he effortlessly captivates the crowd for the slow burning lilt of ‘Don’t Believe in Me’.
You can’t help but hope the warm relationship he enjoys with the Cribs’ fans acts as some kind of buffer to any personal demons that might plague him.
One of tonight’s few downsides is the slightly iffy sound, which renders ‘Our Bovine Public’ unrecognisable at first. Shorn of its needling high-note intro, it’s rendered as a reductive punk rumble. Happily, though, that turns out to be not altogether A Bad Thing.
‘Men’s Needs’ also suffers a bit at the hands of the mixing desk, but the sky bursting chorus of set closer ‘City of Bugs’ positively soars.
There’s no encore and the house lights go up before 11, the Jarmans obviously preferring to keep things short but searing.
The Cribs are back. And it really is cool to be an outsider.
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