ALBUM REVIEWS: The Cribs – In the Belly Of the Brazen Bull

Written for the 405

If you’ll pardon the slightly pompous BA Journalism term, what’s the current “narrative” of the Jarman brothers? For their first few albums The Cribs were characterised as eccentric punk rockers whose ace songwriting was hampered by lo-fi production which made their brilliant songs sound like they’d been recorded in/with a tin can (which was sort of true).

Then when it came to album four, 2009’s Ignore the Ignorant, all eyes were on – HEY IT’S JOHNNY MARR! OUT OF THE SMITHS! (and Modest Mouse) WHAT’S HE DOING IN THE CRIBS? That album was also their highest charting in the UK.

But with Marr out soon after to focus on a solo career (?), The Cribs have been catapulted into something of a limbo state; with no-one sure on what they’ll do, they’ve had to chose their next move wisely. In a way, they were back to square one.

Clearly, they’ve thought the very same thing. On a purely superficial level, In The Belly of the Brazen Bull has a lot in common with their self-titled debut and lo-fi zenith The New Fellas; like on those two formative albums, everything sounds rough-and-ready, from the production to guitar playing to Ryan and Gary’s throat-shredding vocals. Notably, this style is most apparent on the blazing single “Chi-Town”, which is the shot in the arm the band needed after the slower-paced (read: slightly boring) Ignore the Ignorant, and “C’mon, Be A No-One”, the second single which sees a return of the boys’ self-deprecating streak.

The spectre of Marr does still creeps over a couple of songs. On some of his contributions to Ignore the Ignorant, his jangly, flowery lead guitar chimed perfectly with the Cribs’ more fey indie influences – Orange Juice, Comet Gain et al. On others, it was completely unwelcome, almost too juvenile given the surroundings; the auditory equivalent of a child wandering into a piss-soaked early Replacements gig. It’s much the same here; it works on the more melodic tracks, twinning well with a bubbling organ on “Jaded Youth”, whilst on the bitter-sweet “Anna” it manages to de-fang the track a bit.

The Wakefield three’s infatuation with early Sonic Youth rears its head again too, as it did on the previous album with the likes of ‘City of Bugs’. Here, they pay homage/rip off “The Trilogy” from the Youth’s Daydream Nation on the final four tracks of In The Belly of the Brazen Bull. The fourteen-minute “Stalagmites / Like a Gift Giver / Butterflies / Arena Rock Encore with Full Cast” is one of the crowning achievements of the band’s career so far, encompassing all the musical styles and influences they’ve played with since their inception – plus some strings! – whilst also managing not to get boring over the eleven-minute running time.

Other than that, the Brazen Bull is a slightly flabby beast. After the opening squall of ‘Glitters Like Gold’ setting out the old-school Cribs stall and then kicking it over, and the still-brilliant “Come On, Be a No-One”, the wheels come off for a bit and it not until “Chi-Town” (five tracks later) that things get back on track.

We want to say welcome home boys, but…well, you look like The Cribs, and sometimes you sound like The Cribs. But something is…different. And we’re not sure we like it.

6/10

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: