I, for one, have been hankering for a band-made album that defines and ignites 2017 – something everyone from Royal Blood, Arcade Fire and The Amazons have failed to do (the xx have been one of the rare success stories).
Luckily, when one is faced with a new record from The Cribs, there is a pretty safe bet it will be a bit tasty. The 2015-released For All My Sisters boasted near-career-best singles like ‘Different Angle’ – and was met with hearty critical conservation.
The Wakefield band of Gary, Ross and Ryan Jarman – Johnny Marr, rather wonderfully, was knighted a formal member in 2008 – are keen to keep their force strong with the charmingly-titled 24-7 Rock Star Shit. If the title is not the most inventive: the boys have been discussing recording and what one can expect from the record. The lads have been releasing material for thirteen years which, in a time where so many artists are short-term and endangered, it is heartening discovering a band still able to turn heads so long after their debut.
Right from the off, on ‘Give Good Time’, they take no prisoners. Recalling Surfer Rosa-era Pixies’ riffs and vocals: the boys concoct a bitches’ brew of snarled spits and scuzzy licks – complete with snake-tongued bass and rollicking percussion. Whereas some acts (naming no names!) have disappointed when it comes to riffs and anthems – The Cribs manage to blend subtlety and histrionics without losing focus.
‘In Your Palace’ is Punk-edged and semi-melodic (strangely, mixing The Offspring and Pixies) whereas ‘Dendrophobia’ – oddly, a fear of trees – is the inspiration for the album’s most coherent and solid moment. Riffs and riots twang between speakers: the lead vocal is brooding and passive-aggressive. It launches into a chorus that is destined to get festival crowds hooked, unified and moshing. It never gets too wayward and cacophonous: the song perfectly balances ball-swinging attitude and an ear for nuance. It goes through stages and emotions; offering something new with every listen. ‘What Have You Done for Me?’ is a song that, sadly, does not offer enough distinction for a recommendation. It fits into the context of 24-7 Rock Star Shit but provides a surfeit of personality, individuality and memorability – a more generic and formulaic Cribs work-out.
Luckily; order is restored on ‘Sticks Not Twigs’. Anyone expecting an electric guitar-ignited blaze is, instead, provided a ruminative and romantic number. The acoustic guitar-led song shows the band is capable of creating tender and diverse music. “Wait for me/My baby/As strong/As five of me” is, one imagines, based on a relationship that has gone through some trials. It seems the hero is lacking fortitude but is being motivated by a strong and desirable heroine – one he is keen to see very soon. ‘Rainbow Ridge’ and ‘Partisan’ follow and, whilst different in tone, tend to stick too closely to earlier numbers like ‘Year of Hate’ and ‘In Your Palace’. ‘Rainbow Ridge’ does, at the least, showcase the album’s most attitude-heavy song. It recalls the better moments from their eponymous debut (2004) but, as many critics noted, that was a rather uneven L.P. ‘Partisan’ has enough spit-juice and fist-clench to make it a solid arena anthem – but, when heard, awkwardly stumbles between small-venue mosh-pit anthem and drunken sing-along.
‘Dead at the Wheel’ shows why the band – across their last two albums, at least – have been getting critics talking and involved. It departs from the rest of the record and takes it in a new direction. There are psychedelic strands and Pink Floyd-esque strings: dreamy and hazy but always fascinating and focused. A rather laconic and croaked vocal nicely accompanies the score – full of tender strings and warped electronics. It is a song that is soft and whispered but packs punch and sonic depth. ‘Dead at the Wheel’ that shows the band can work within a D.I.Y./raw aesthetic but push their palette beyond their early days. ‘Broken Arrow’ is a strong swansong that perfectly bookends the album. A definite highlight that demands repeated listens and demonstrates why The Cribs are one of the tightest bands around. There are flavours of U.S. Punk-Rock (circa. 2000) but, when the boys up the tempo; one gets a slap of garage, rock and indie. Such a sumptuous bouquet of sounds – one that leaves the listener wanting more.
The Cribs’ seventh album has received relatively little fanfare and build-up: not the usual parade of singles and teasers most bands subject us to. That, to some, might indicate reluctant and nerves but, in truth, the boys have been doing this long enough to know what they’re doing. There are some weaker moments and repetitiveness but, cut away the odd bit of fat and one is left with a lean, interesting and original album that pushes The Cribs’ sound to a new level.
It is a guitar album 2017 has been asking for (take note, Royal Blood!) and will surely find many patrons and acolytes when it is translated in the live setting. If one gets past the naff and jejune album title; you are left with a record that warrants respect. The boys might be a lot older than their first bloom – and their rider a lot more sensible and less ‘rock star’ – but, when it comes to the music they are as hungry, experimental and agile as ever. 24-7 Rock Star Shit is an album that shows there’s plenty more life in the Yorkshire band.