Why The Cribs Are Better Off Without Johnny Marr

So news came in yesterday that Johnny Marr has left The Cribs after four years, while the Jarman brothers admitted that new album sessions “weren’t really working.” In a statement on their site the band said they “don’t want it to be seen as a split” but admitted they were “burnt out”.

As a long-term fan, I’m rather relieved that Johnny Marr has departed to make a solo record. What he bought to the band was exactly the sort of thing The Cribs always opposed: a legitimacy in the rock world. Having the legendary axe-man join the Brothers Jarman changed them from spiky and angsty to grown-up and rather bland.

When the collaboration was first announced I was skeptical. There was always something so pure about the The Cribs’ group dynamic. It was minimalist and fuelled by Ryan and Gary’s sibling telepathy which radiated through their records and on stage. Every show was ramshackle and potentially riotous. They had songs that could rip the sky open with their beating hearts and massive choruses. Which made a Cribs show thrilling and, to quote the band themselves, “a right laff”.

Marr is and was undeniably a legend. But when he joined The Cribs he bought with him years of experience but also the baggage of being identified with the rock cannon. The Cribs’ non-traditionalist punk ethic was suddenly married to Marr’s traditionalism. Could that work? The answer was, in short, no.

My doubts were confirmed when I saw the newly augmented four piece at London’s Heaven in 2009. The new songs from ‘Ignore The Ignorant’ sounded sedate and sensible. The lashings of lyrical wit and cynicism that I’d come to love and expect were absent. Gone was the telepathy, the rough edges, the piss and vinegar attitude and in its place was a new formality. There was the feeling that the band were behaving themselves when Marr was around, pulling themselves into traditional shapes that didn’t fit well.

Had their reverential awe stopped The Cribs being The Cribs? It seemed that way.

So thank goodness that the band are once again re-connecting with their original spirit. As part of the statement they wrote: “we are really honestly loving being back together as just 3 brothers literally playing in the basement/garage again.” Which is the best Cribs news we’ve heard in a while.