The Cribs, ‘In The Belly Of The Brazen Bull’ – First Listen

How ruddy exciting – it’s not too long before The Cribs release their fifth album, ‘In The Belly Of The Brazen Bull’, out on May 7. But that’s a bit too long a passage of time to pass by just repeating ‘Chi-Town’ and ‘Come On Be A No-One’, the two songs from the album out there already, over and over and over.

I’ve been lucky enough to have a sneak preview of the album, and while I was speaking to Ryan, Gary and Ross Jarman for their feature in the new issue of NME (out Wednesday March 14), I got a some more words about the record and what to expect. So to tide you over until May, in the words of myself and those gents, here’s NME’s track by track guide to the newie.

Glitters Like Gold
The Cribs’ last two albums have kicked off with punky blasts (‘Our Bovine Public’ and ‘We Were Aborted’), and the more subtle leanings of ‘Glitters Like Gold’ signal how this time round, things are a bit more sophisticated.

Come On Be A No-One

This, you’ll have heard already. And, as a result, you’ll be fully aware that it’s one of the Jarmans’ finest moments yet. “A lot of people are going to go, ‘Oh now Johnny [Marr]’s gone they’re back to being a punk band’,” Ryan says. “Not that I think there’s anything wrong with that, but I know a lot of people thought the last record was solely down to Johnny’s contribution, which it absolutely wasn’t. ‘Chi-Town’ and ‘Come On Be A No-One’ are much more direct songs than anything we put out on the last one.”

Jaded Youth
A lot’s been made of The Cribs’ supposed return to their roots on this album, and certainly ‘Jaded Youth’ is the song here that most resembles something off their 2004 debut album, with its rushing riffs and dirty, college rock bassline. But don’t call it regression – the building chorus is a subtle beast that unfurls like an anaconda. Ryan:

People who go into it with the attitude that it’s ‘back to basics’ are going to find a record that’s a lot more stripped back, it was all recorded live and we didn’t do as many overdubs. Sonically it’s a lot fiercer record, Dave Friddman and Steve Albini are both quite uncompromising producers.

Anna

Big chorus from Gary here. Check out a slightly shoddy live version from last year:

Confident Man

The Cribs are quite underrated as musicians, and there’s some extremely nifty guitar picking going on here over Ross’ flam-echo drum patter to form one of the more gentle moments on the album. Ross: “If people think the new record is going to be very much like Chi-Town they’ll be surprised. It’s not like that. A lot of Gary’s songs… he’s done a lot of crafting, he’s played guitar on there, the new record has got two guitars on it.”

Uptight

A dirty dirge of a bassline here hits as hard as a Pixies intro and ensures that this heavy chugger, featuring riffs seemingly skimmed from Super Furry Animals’ master-fuzz debut ‘Fuzzy Logic’, is another subtle grower. Gary: “Ryan’s radical vitriolic side and the way that I’ve been trying to pull the band for a long time are quite different. I realise that that’s not exactly what people associate with us…”

Chi-Town

The first song to be unveiled from the album, an absolute belter of a punk rocker and the song they open their sets with now. It’s also got a pretty sweet story behind it from when Ryan was a youngster.

Ryan: “I met a girl who lived in Chicago, I sold this old Fender Jaguar I had and went to Chicago and went and lived with her and a load of artists. We were going to get married and I was really happy, then the band got signed and obviously all that went wrong because I was on tour all the time. We ended up splitting up and we didn’t’ speak for ten years, even though we split up on good terms. I was so tormented by it for the past ten years. We were in Chicago recording it with Steve Albini, and I met up with my ex-girlfriend and we totally cleared the air, had a really good chat. We’d both completely moved on. I’m glad I got a song out of it. I can move on with my life now, I’ve closed the book on that whole chapter.”

Pure-O

This song was first recorded by Queen producer David Richards in Switzerland, but it all turned out a bit too ‘arena rock’ and the sessions didn’t continue for the rest of the album. You can hear how this could be turned into something that could fill the O2, those needling riffs are subtly anthemic and this is an album highlight for sure.

Back To The Bolthole

A slow-burning, throat-rip-roar epic that’s a favourite of Ryan’s and a new live highlight. Gary: “Ryan’s definitely propagating the fact that it’s [the album as a whole] more back to basics. At least in our approach to things I would say it is, as it’s just the three of us doing whatever comes naturally and writing quite swiftly. Having said that some of the songs like ‘Back To The Bolthole’ and all of the Abbey Road stuff [the final four songs] and ‘Confident Men’ are a progression on the previous record. I think it’s a little confusing, back to basics in its approach and its ideal, but I still like to consider it a progression.”

I Should Have Helped

The acoustic one. One of Gary’s favourites, this is a classic-sounding acoustic slowie (where you can here the hands scraping up the strings and everything), and reminds of the early acoustic stuff The Coral did. Sweet and touching (“Perfect things can break your heart,” Gary croons), it offers a side to The Cribs we don’t often see.

‘Stalagmites’/’Like A Gift Giver’/’Butterflies’/Arena Rock Encore With Full Cast’

The final four songs on the album are melded together into a four-track ‘suite’ that lasts about 12 minutes, recorded by the band themselves at Abbey Road in London. In abstraction this sounds like it should be a load of pretentious twaddle that makes most of Arctic Monkeys’ ‘Humbug’ seem as tuneful as ‘Empire State Of Mind’. In reality, it’s just four really good songs segued together well, the most impressive of which is the genuinely arena-worthy two-and-a-half-minute closer ‘Arena Rock Encore With Full Cast’.

Gary: “‘Arena Rock Encore…’, ha, it’s a big, positive, hooky repeated refrain. Sometimes that can be way more thought-provoking and cool than high art.”