Brilliant second album from West Yorks brothers proves they have the heartwarming tunes to become the pop band of the year
The absolute brilliance of pop music lies in its ability to communicate on a level more expansive than any other cultural medium. It can speak to anyone, anytime, anywhere. Great pop can unite people in a way literature, cinema, theatre, even television, never can. Stick The Beatles’ ‘1967-1970’ on your turntable after Sunday dinner, and everyone from gran to little brother will find a moment they share, fused by pop, where age gaps are smeared into insignificance. Hear Coldplay headline Glastonbury, and everyone within an audible radius of Worthy Farm will find an instant – even if it’s the most fleeting of times – where politics, gender, class and ethnicity are obliterated into oblivion by a great pop song. Everyone loves a great pop song. Well, almost everyone.
Unbelievably, there are people who fear this notion of an all-inclusive pop community like a small child might fear a swarm of hungry, flesh-eating warrior ants. These people dwell under stones in the shadowy nether regions of the underground ‘do it yourself’ indie movement, chastising anyone with the ‘wrong’ haircut and unable to recite the Beat Happening discography backwards while standing on their head. They’re cliquey pious fuckers too, lambasting bands as sell-outs for achieving any degree of commercial success. They fear mass media, mass communication – heck – mass enjoyment, for fear of anyone gatecrashing their little boys’ club. Sigh. It’s always the boys.
The Cribs know this scene well. The first time NME saw them they were playing a working men’s club function room in Leeds while two bespectacled boys tried to push fanzines into our face. They loaded their own equipment in and out of the venue, sold their own T-shirts and danced like buffoons to obscure US hardcore punk rock. Cut them in half, and their torsos would spell ‘indie’ like a stick of fleshy seaside rock. Ask The Cribs who their favourite band are and they’ll enthuse about scarcely known acts like Trumans Water, Half Japanese and Slim Moon. They come from a scene peppered with DIY punk rock squat shows, benefit festivals, and coloured seven-inch singles. But where The Cribs differ is the possession of the staple ingredients that infuse the Wakefield trio’s second album with such vital zeal. The three brothers that comprise The Cribs – bassist Gary, guitarist Ryan and drummer Ross Jarman – blow the roof of that insular scene with their ambition, vision, wit and drive – and better songs than anyone has written in ages. It’s an indisputable fact (seek out their 2004 self-titled debut for proof), and this is how they power their escape from underachieving mediocrity and zoom towards mass adoration. After all, if you wrote songs as completely fucking brilliant as those found on ‘The New Fellas’, why wouldn’t you want the whole world to hear them? This record is the symphonic screech of tyres as The Cribs speed away from the indie ghetto. It. Is. Ace.
If the album sees The Cribs presenting their songs to the mass populace, then opening song and recent single cut ‘Hey Scenesters!’ is a sarcastic wave to the indie Nazis as they cruise out of view. It doesn’t just kick off the record, but propels it to stratospheric heights from the very onset. It’s the best song you’ll dance pissed to in the disco all year. It’s the epitome of fun weaved into the infrastructure that runs through the heart of a startling statement of intent. You will dance to it. You will have fun. ‘I’m Alright’ serves that very purpose too. Littered with West Yorkshire colloquialisms, heart-wrenching guitar breaks, and yelped choruses, its repeated refrain of “Take drugs! Don’t sleep!” does little to reinforce NME’s opening gambit of great pop reaching out to mum, yet it’s a song yummier than the sticky fudge stuck at the back of gran’s dentures. ‘It Was Only Love’ (skuzzy, fuzzy, stompy – totally ace), ‘We Can No Longer Cheat You’ (shimmering with producer Edwyn Collins’ magic touch, driven by frantic heartbeat drumming), ‘Haunted’ (tender and soppy Big Star-esque ballad pop), ‘The Wrong Way To Be’ (like Pavement rocking out with Blondie, and a comment on their aforementioned indie beginnings) – The Cribs are stockpiling their genius pop arsenal for use on your heart.
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NME may have told you some silly things in the past. But grant us an audience while we lay down some absolute truth. ‘Martell’, which makes an appearance three songs in, will be played at major festivals the world over. It will be dark, the crowd will be singing along, everyone will be so very, very happy. It sounds like Oasis for one thing, its chorus goes “La la la” over and over again and it has handclaps– it’s everything a great pop song should be.
Meanwhile, ‘Mirror Kissers’ fits like a hooded top; it’s warm and snug and ever-so-slightly dangerous. If The Cribs ever fancied stepping sideways out of the pop circus and becoming songwriters for hire, everyone from Britney to Girls Aloud to the Franzes and Snow Patrol, would be grasping for these tunes. It’s a song that would remain great no matter who slipped it on. (Fingers crossed for a Lemar reworking with gleeful sincerity.)
This summer the irresistible, brain-gnawing skill of ‘The New Fellas’ will snare you. These songs will soundtrack every festival, every drunken snog and every intoxicated shimmy. Come autumn, they will be your favourite band. Back in the indie ghetto, The Cribs were always the band that’d rather kiss girls than smooch with Yummy Fur seven-inches. They’d prefer to dance drunkenly to Kylie songs than mooch about, stifling their yawns while others discussed ‘punk rules’. They knew that great pop music was about excitement and thrills and passion and hope. They knew it was about reaching out to people with these gifts, providing the basket for their hopes and dreams to be carried in. They knew that great pop was about moments. Allow NME to tell you another truth. Many, many people will have many, many moments – united in their enjoyment – to this awesome record over the coming year.