The Cribs - 'For All My Sisters'
The first of two new albums from the Jarman brothers is full of delirious, damaged indie-punk greatness
These are pivotal times in Cribsland. The Jarman brothers’ spell with long-time label Wichita and brief self-imposed hiatus have expired, and they return with promises of two new albums – one all-out pop, one all-out punk – and everything to play for. Their critical standing as one of the most consistently adored guitar bands of the past decade remains as firm and reliable as the incompetence of Apprentice contestants, but the fate of Ash, Supergrass et al beckons – years of diminishing returns and dinnertime festival slots – unless they make a Monkeys-level leap into the Big Time.
On sixth album – the ‘pop one’, recorded in New York with producer Ric Ocasek of The Cars for maximum geek-rock gloss – they give it their best shot while sticking firmly within their screamy garage punk parameters. There’s nothing here as experimental as their monumental poetic collaboration with Sonic Youth’s Lee Ranaldo on 2007’s ‘Be Safe’, but right from the off there’s plenty as infectious as ‘Mirror Kissers’ (2005), ‘Cheat On Me’ (2009) or ‘Come On, Be A No-One’ (2012).
‘Different Angle’ rides in on a characteristically bold guitar riff and spectral backing coos and ‘Burning For No One’ takes the new-wave tone of Elvis Costello or Magazine to unravel what sounds like a story of being ditched by a celebrity (”Dancing on the screen, I still see you as the star power you used to have… I’ll still watch you through my hands”). If it wasn’t bassist Gary singing it, you might think it was about guitarist Ryan’s ex-girlfriend Kate Nash.
The Cribs are old masters at such delirious, damaged indie punk greatness, and ‘For All My Sisters’ is rammed with prime cuts. ‘City Storms’, ‘Summer Of Chances’ and ‘Diamond Girl’ all have a surfeit of magnificent riffs nicked from the jack lead of James Dean Bradfield, trampolining chorus hooks and lovelorn breakup lyrics that suggest troubled times. There’s a real sense of striving to make ‘For All My Sisters’ a one-album greatest hits, which is a treat for the devoted but isn’t going to divert any passing Mumford fans at Reading And Leeds.
No, ‘…Sisters’ really does it for itself when The Cribs give a few retro tropes a good Wakefield kicking. Grunging up ‘50s rock’n’roll, opener ‘Finally Free’ is a coagulated Grease classic complete with Gary caterwauling his romantic regrets like a psychopathic Gene Pitney. Both the bombastic ‘Pacific Time’ and lead single ‘An Ivory Hand’ work a rougher, more synth-screwed angle on the same DNA strand of species-wide nostalgia. More interesting is ‘Simple Story’, in which Ryan channels the grotty ghost of Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Dancing In The Dark’ to sing a cracked lament that, quite literally, seems to be sung from the perspective of a sad dog on hard drugs. “Let me off the leash and watch me running the grass/ But then I disappear and I show up a few days later with my foot in a trap,” he pants, “Maybe I need to be on something to understand just what all this means”. And that will prick ears.
Finally, epic closer ‘Pink Snow’ seems to gather up every elastic guitar wobble, wintry warble and crescendo crash that’s been made by every US alt-folk band since 2006 and squash them into a desolate seven-minute monster. A classic, if often over-familiar Cribs album then, but the door is open for the forthcoming Steve Albini-produced ‘punk one’ to be the death-or-glory game-changer.
Director: Ric Ocasek
Record label: Sonic Blew/Sony Red
Release date: 23 Mar, 2015