The Cribs have been teasing two new albums for a while now and last week they finally announced a release date for one of them. ‘For All My Sisters’ arrives on March 23 and, in this week’s NME, Ryan Jarman touts it as “the poppiest record since ‘Men’s Needs, Women’s Needs, Whatever’”. Get ready for these songs to be permanently stuck in your head – we gave it an early listen and discovered an album full of glimmering earworms.
Shrill guitars kick off the album in a siren-like call to attention, before settling into an urgent but lilting swing. “In the back row of the theatre, watch the film unspool before leaving/Alone for so long but convinced through that the closing song is just for you,” sings Ryan ahead of a chorus full of falsetto and big pop hooks. It’s a bold opener that reels you right in and sets up the rest of the album perfectly.
Boasting a classic Cribs guitar riff – coming on like a fuller-sounding take on the one from ‘Another Number’ – ‘Different Angle’ is gigantic and rousing. “We’ll run away like kids/Bonnie and Clyde or something just as stupid” sings Ryan while the chorus’ layered vocals are just waiting to be chanted in unison at live shows.
Burning For No One
The Cribs at their danciest. Orange Juice-esque, syncopated guitars glitter as bassist Gary sings about “feeling so eternally grateful”. Subtle synths shimmer in the background, like a gentle haze of dry ice creeping on the corners of a mirrorball-lit dancefloor.
‘Mr. Wrong’ moves things into heavier, more chugging territory than what’s come before. “Just can’t really see myself sleeping in the basement forever/Even though it’s dark down there, I’m growing into something weaker” Ryan sighs over fuzzed up riffs. The whole thing’s underpinned by a pirouetting synth line, adding a sparkling glint to things in the midst of all the darkness.
An Ivory Hand
The first track to be heard from the album and the first confirmation that ‘For All My Sisters’ would, indeed, be a belter of a pop album. “For a minute thought my heart had stopped,” sings bassist Gary over swooning guitars. It’s one of the songs with the clearest Ric Ocasek-stamp on it, all early-Weezer sonics and geek rock characteristics. It also contains one of the album’s most powerful images: “Always walking through webs/See nostalgia as a threat”.
The mid-point of the album takes a sparser approach; an acoustic-driven song that Ryan only finished writing in the studio. This being The Cribs, its pretty strumming is smothered in effects akin to being in an echo chamber but, like it’s title suggests, it’s still the most straightforward track on here. It’s also a bit of a heartwrencher, with lyrics like “but it’s only my heart that’s bleeding/I’m howling at the moon just hoping someone understands”.
More classic Jarman riffery, here, but it’s the lyrics that really take centre stage. Cribs’ lines are always evocative – you might not always know exactly what they’re on about or have experienced similar situations but they draw a vivid picture. ‘City Storms’ is an example. “She never heard me call/Stuck in a city storm” and “Do you remember what it was like with the electric in the night/And the tears at the door?” conjurie up phones unanswered on blustery streets and darkened apartments rife with emotion.
“Radio silence will tell me what I need ‘til I find what you’re hiding from/Maybe the angels have got your tongue,” Gary sighs after a stuttering and swooning start. Ryan’s guitar weaves spiraling patterns that gradually slow as the chorus edges closer. It’s a waltzing, dizzying track; slow for the most part but zips into a burst of overwhelming power at its close, the Jarmans pleading “Paint me how I should be and make everyone love me.”
Summer Of Chances
The most searching track on ‘For All My Sisters’ and contains possibly the record’s most pop moment, too. “Nature versus nurture/Which one is stronger?” and “Are you living this way because you think you have to?” are ‘Summer Of Chances’ key questions, delivered over thrash-y power chords and a jittering guitar hook. Then comes the song’s crowning glory, a soaring, shrill chorus that feels like it’s taking off and heading straight for the clouds. Glorious.
“Underneath your rainbow, you bring me to your knees/Keep me at midnight but the end of the day at least,” Ryan opens. “You don’t have to hear the screams of those living out their dreams/So it makes sense to you that they end up like they do”. It’s a delicious start to something jagged and spiky, that gets stuck under your skin. “We’ll never be as straight as they want us to be,” he promises later and there’s no way you’ll doubt him.
Spring On Broadway
A reference to New York’s Broadway in the spring or the point where Spring Street – just around the corner from the studio ‘For All My Sisters’ was recorded in – and Broadway meet in the city’s grid of roads? Acoustic strums kick things off before the riffs hit, and hit hard. “You know I could be right/That it’s worth more than my life” they croon enigmatically, before urging, “when everyone’s forgotten you/Don’t be sad baby.” It’s ferociously buzzing and dripping with urgency – one of the record’s finest moments and that’s saying something.
The last song on the album, as well as the longest and most transformative. Pensive guitar introduces things, questioning “but were you better on your own?/To all my sisters, I promise you this/That I’ll try and be brave for you.” Then, it builds into a frenzied, noisy-but-still-gleaming chorus with the central line “do you picture me alone?” spinning repeatedly through. It’s the perfect teetering end to a record that’s both impressively accomplished and riddled with irresistible pop hooks.