The Cribs - 'In The Belly Of The Brazen Bull' (UK Release: 7 May '12) // Words: Rajan Lakhani
A lot has happened in the three years since The Cribs released their last record. British alternative is at one of its lowest ebbs, with the most recent successes merely recycling what has gone before them, such as the Tribes (Britpop) and The Vaccines (The Ramones) albeit in a infectious way. Claiming "they did not want to do [a new album] while guitar bands were still in vogue", the scene is perfectly set for their return but does 'In The Belly Of The Brazen Bull' go some way to reinvigorating guitar music in the UK?
A couple of tracks into the album, it becomes clear that its first release 'Chi-Town' was a little bit of a curveball. Like many, I thought it heralded a return to their earlier sound prior to 'Ignore The Ignorant' but the atmosphere is far more in the spirit of 90s American low-fi rock.
This shouldn’t come as much of a surprise given the band’s choice of Dave Friddman (Mercury Rev, The Flaming Lips) and Steve Albini (Nirvana, Pixies) as producers. Thankfully, gone is the overly-smooth, commercial sound that marred (no pun intended!) their last record, replaced with the edginess and dissonance that made us first take notice of The Cribs.
The album is littered with memorable choruses. Opener 'Glitters Like Gold' is a statement of intent, embracing synths suggesting that while the band are taking a more direct approach this time, there is a little more refinement in how they are going about it. The shout-along refrain of 'Come-On, Be A No-One' is ready made for arenas, while the middle section of 'Jaded Youth' recalls 'Pinkerton'-era Weezer. An album highlight is the signature Cribs grimy punk rocker that is 'Chi-Town' which nestles alongside the anthemic joy 'Pure O'. The only song lacking in any merit on the record is 'Confident Men', which meanders along aimlessly.
The Cribs’ most ambitious work to date is reserved for the last suite of songs. Made up of four tracks, 'Stalagmites'/'Like A Gift Giver'/'Butterflies'/'Arena Rock Encore With Full Cast' begins slowly but builds into a huge refrain, worthy of the tongue-in-cheek track name, fitting in between a catchy vocal which recalls Ash’s ‘Goldfinger’ and a lovely guitar solo that will make the hairs stand up at the back of your neck.
'In The Belly Of The Brazen Bull' sees The Cribs only tinkering with their sonic palette, albeit there is a greater degree of introspection in the lyrics. Love them or hate them, you have to admire them to some extent for their belligerence. Musical fashions may change around them, but they remain steadfast in their commitment to a particular style. However, there is a limit to how much you can recycle and while the last run of songs demonstrates a welcome degree of surprise and ambition, there is a worrying lack of innovation elsewhere in the record. Nevertheless, the record is a success on the whole, largely thanks to the band’s largely unrivalled way with a melody.
'In The Belly Of The Brazen Bull' is out now on Wichita, and available to purchase from Amazon.co.uk.