Throughout their career, The Cribs have managed to remain one of the most underrated popular bands of the past decade. It’s extremely clever and very confusing. I suppose they’re what happens when a boy band become slave to curtain haircuts, guitars and punk rock, the antithesis to the apparent consensus that earth-tone chinos and Justin Bieber are acceptable taste choices. They’re a clear example of a band with the perfect equation of songwriting, talent, a ferocious English snarl and tenacity which against all odds, do bring them hits and a popularity in their cult following. They have the ability to sell out but in their own words: “it’s cool to be an outsider” which explains their surprise at sharing the limelight with Adele in the top 10 album shelf.
It seems as though the general consensus is that In the Belly of the Brazen Bull is hailing the sound we once knew and loved since Marr left the band, however ‘Glitters Like Gold’ does open the album with screeching reverb, and sounds completely different to anything they’ve done before. It’s got all the usual Cribs elements that we’ve come to expect but the psychedelic fuzz and wistful tone are the perfect welcome back to greet your ears. Contrary to their usual haphazard approach to playing instruments, it seems Ryan’s relentless dedication to holing himself up in his garage essentially teaching himself to shred on the next single has paid off and has struck gold with a hook that stays with you long after the song’s over.
Another highlight of the album that really ignites the fire in the belly of the Jarman trio is ‘Jaded Youth’, an anthem calling out to the throngs of misunderstood teenagers clinging onto their every note that comes out of their amps, with angsty foot stomping rhythms, this is a surefire hit for even higher levels of energy that we’ve come to expect from their reckless gigs which will be more than likely met with choral chanting.
‘Anna’ starts to turn the album in a different direction highlighting their impeccable ability to construct a song that you can both sing along and headbang to at the same time, even the most plaintive lyrics, roaring “I’M NOT YET WHO I WANNA BE SO HELP ME TO CHANGE” don’t lower the tone, riding on the acidic guitar riffs injecting their pop-punk poison before the come-down that follows in terms of the rest of the album.
‘Back to the Bolthole’ is something of a grower, in the same way that the song takes a good minute at least to get down to the gritty, murky depths of it before launching into a raw heartfelt mental ghost. “Just try to think, it’s the one thing that makes it all worthwhile. That I, one day will die.” Reminiscent of the documentation of plaguing mental claustrophobia that comes from “dullness” in ‘Be Safe’ from the third album, (the thing that The Cribs oppose in every way possible) it feels as if a huge plaster has been ripped off, unleashing a raw wound of emotion and darkness. ‘I Should Have Helped’ has the essence of a touched nerve, biographically about the suicide of an eminent fan of the band. This semi-acoustic element is hugely evident of their versatility not only musically but as a band as a whole, proving that everything they stand for is more honest and genuine than a contrived pretence, an asset to the music industry during a time when ask anyone who the greatest guitar band around are right now and you’ll be met with “The Vaccines”.
One of the most poignant and heart-rending moment for the whole album and for many members of The Cribs’ fandom is during the self-mockingly titled ‘Arena Rock Encore With Full Cast.’ If their journey and thus ‘In The Belly of the Brazen Bull’ could be summed up in one lyric, it would undoubtedly be “sorry that it’s taken years, we were victims of our own ideals but I’d rather be tied to myself than to anyone else.”
Admittedly, I did cringe with anxiety at the concept of a rock opera element to the album prior to the release, but as always, The Cribs prove themselves to be capable of anything, turning the simple concept of three boys in a band to something revolutionary, and without destroying their punk-rock reputation, completely emotionally overwhelming. Considering the obstacles of mental issues, breakups and divided time in studios with different producers, I have to stick two fingers up to anyone who has said that this album is lacking in energy; it resonates around the room in the shrieking feedback, thrashes underneath the pounding of Ross’ drumming, and pulsates from the bass lines and guitar riffs, culminating into another instalment of their journey and consistent output of their tenacity & determination. While the squeaky reverbs of feedback and noise that come as a souvenir from the venture into the depths of lo-fi won’t win them any er.. younger fans it does come as an expected given from the direction of Steve Albini, it’s balanced out by some of the most captivating hooks and melodies to mark their career, and it’s certainly one of their most heartfelt efforts. The occasional glimpse of nonchalance in tone can be afforded with a band as real and honest as this, with their talent and ability shining through without relying on an exhaustingly false facades to prop it up. While the Ryan-Gary seesaw often finds itself teetering on either the devil-may-care or calm and composed side of itself, this album sees an equilibrium between the two opposing forces of nature that could be down to Marr’s absence; quantifiably it seems as though the proportion of the limelight is greater shared between the Jarman family than a set up of 3+ex-Smiths-marauder, it seems their chaos has more composure dare I say it, but for the better, highlighting an even stronger belief in their own anarchic affirmations.
Many seem to see ‘In The Belly…’ as a return to form, but I disagree; that would suggest they’re taking two steps forward and three steps back. Not a band to be confined or pigeon holed, their honesty and genuine musicianship are a testament to not only themselves, but the music industry too, holding themselves up on a podium constructed on the unabashed loyalty and dedication of their fans, and it doesn’t look like they’re going to be knocked off it any time soon, no matter how many self inflicted blows of bass guitars they take to the head.
By Bella Roach
Dance Yrself Clean