New Band Of The Week #4- Crybaby Special

The Medway band play a snarling brand of ska-punk, and deserve a tilt at breaking out of Kent and into the ears of the mainstream...
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New band of the week. How many new bands formed last week? I'm no mathematician, but I bet it's literally loads. So, in the face of sheer numbers, what can you do to stand out? It's no longer enough to get up onstage and be loud for thirty minutes; your loudness has to be coloured with something.  What  about  being  loud  and  colourful?  What  about  being  full  of  personality  and shouting  about it? What  about  blaring  characters? Well that's  one way to  describe Medway  act Crybaby Special, who earlier this year released their first album No Excuses on independent record label The Preservation Society Presents.

Their  album  introduces  itself  wisely  with  perhaps  the  band's best ­loved  song,  title  track  'No Excuses'. Opening with  a  pair  of sour seventh  chords separated  by  a semitone (D7  and Db7, if you're  curious)  Jason  Stafford  sings  the  bewitching  chorus  melody  with  crazed  commitment, before  the  band  launches  into  their  trademark  punk­polka  style.  In  live  performances  those arpeggiated, shaggy­dog opening chords always elicited great anticipation, and soon afterwards the room would be reverberating with an irresistible mass singalong.

Singing along with Crybaby Special, though, is not always easy to manage. Stafford's voice is a furious concoction of guttural snarls and psychopathic vibrato; he often sounds both spooked and spooky. Trying to match him line for line will give you  a sore throat,  and you'll have lost your voice before you get the end of the song. The single 'One Winged Bird' sees Stafford making like The  Black  Rider­era  Tom  Waits  with  his  carnivalesque  calls  and  hollers.  Later,  on  'Beelzebub Boogie',  the vocal effect puts one in mind of Korn's Jonathan Davis at his most freakishly strange.


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Although the band's USP is undoubtedly Stafford, they're very much a musical unit; each member plays an integral role. Bassist Josh Carson is often the anchor of the bobbing polka, but he's just as often  the  flighty  fingers  beneath  Stafford's  crows­feet  rhythm  guitar.  On  'I  Got  It  Wrong'  and 'Murder In The Wall' his nimble and hooky bass playing enlivens the mix. Lewis Ashley on drums completes the permanent trio, and throughout this album and elsewhere he shows great command of dynamics and helms the band very capably. His piece of their puzzle is essential.

Crybaby Special  are Champions of the scene in Medway,  and I mean that in two ways. Firstly, they are absolutely a top­tier act, a class act even. Secondly, and more importantly, they champion the scene in Medway. They are unfailingly charitable to other bands. They frequently host open mic  nights  in  local  pubs  and  bars,  and  can  be found  attending  as  many shows  as  they  put  on. They're scene­makers, things happen around them because they make them happen.

Having been more or less omnipresent in various live circles the band have recently taken time out to write new material, which will emerge in some form next year. Who knows how far they can go? Luck has everything to do with whether or not you're successful, but if the light of luck does chance upon Crybaby Special they'll have done enough to be noticed, to stand out. Medway would be poorer for losing them, but I'll speak for the towns and say that if it meant a few of our most characterful sons broke out in a fit of success, we'd gladly take the hit.