Blood, Sweat And Jarmans: The Cribs Were The Greatest Live Band Of My Youth

With their sixth album now out, it's time to reflect on why the Wakefield punk-minstrels have played some of the best gigs of my formative years...
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I feel my title may be a little misleading. With the same principle as Mitch Hedberg’s “I used to do drugs” gag...while The Cribs were the greatest live band of my youth, they may also be the greatest live band of my decay. This week The Cribs released For All My Sisters, their sixth studio album. I think it’s worth talking about what they have meant to me and the thousands of other people who lost their Adam’s apple somewhere between ‘Mirror Kisses and ‘Be Safe’.

I have watched The Cribs perform each album on each tour and they are still the gigs I think of when discussing unity amongst crowds. However, the first gig I remember is from The New Fellas tour at Cambridge Junction. I remember screaming ‘Mirror Kissers’ in 2005 and I could tell you the appearance of every fan around me. I can still hear them shouting in my ear and I can still picture screaming “THE HIPSTER TYPE, THE TYPE WOAH” into a stranger’s face with my hands gripping the higher parts of his cheeks.

Everyone would be extending from the ankle and forcing their feet back into the floor in an attempt to crack the concrete. 2005 was a time where the space above your head at a concert was occupied by smoke rather than iPhones. There was no hostility when a drunk reveler would mop their brow upon an unsuspecting newcomer’s band t-shirt. People embraced sweat; a reflection of the performance before their eyes. I think back to standing in the queue and hearing a girl say, “I’ve heard Ryan bleeds from his throat from shouting too much”.

She was close; during that tour Ryan’s mouth would split towards the end of the set, but imagine the excitement of believing that. A man’s body visibly rejecting the performance he is willing to give. The band matured but the electric nature of the gigs carried on throughout Men’s Needs, Woman’s Needs, Whatever.  

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In 2008 The Cribs recruited Johnny Marr for their 4th album, Ignore the Ignorant. I hated the move from one guitar to two. I felt it took away a lot of what was special about the band. The sense of raw innocence was lost as the production became cleaner and you could hear chords being played behind a lead guitar part. This also had a large effect on their live shows. Now a second guitarist is used for songs from their first 3 albums, and they have lost some of their personality. However, the album had some great songs on it, notably the singles released and it was a perfect midway album between Men’s Needs, Woman’s Needs, Whatever and In the Belly of the Brazen Bull. In a sense of sarcastic naivety you can refer to Johnny Marr as “that bloke that nearly ruined The Cribs”.

In the Belly of the Brazen Bull was like the return of a loved one after an argument. Neither of you were right, neither of you were wrong, but things were better before hand so that’s how they should stay. I saw The Cribs play the Troxy in Limehouse in May 2012. They would bring on a guitarist for We Were Aborted and a few tracks off the latest album, but the guy would leave as Ryan played the intro to 'Another Number' or 'Baby Don’t Sweat'.

I don’t know if I shouted loudest or if I was on the same wavelength as the Jarman’s but 'Baby Don’t Sweat' was a request after they announced, “Do you want us to play one of the old ones? What should we play?”. The new songs from ...Brazen Bull worked so well live. 1,800 people screaming “I’M NOT YET WHO I WANNA BE” rather than commenting on Ryan’s gaunt appearance.

So the 6th album is now upon us. The album, at points, returns to their roots but in general is a subtle follow on from ...Brazen Bull. After the Troxy, I can get excited about the live performances again. The sweat, the discontent for static fans, the “What song from the new album stands out most live?” The feeling after that you’ve just experienced the most exhilarating live music performance you will see that year.

For All My Sisters is out now.  You can get it here