As ‘Another Number’ clatters to its climax, Gary Jarman licks his lips and declares, “We wrote that 10 years ago in a shithole in Wakefield.” “It’s a bit of an exaggeration,” his twin, Ryan, adds. “But it sounds good: it’s been a decade of The Cribs! And what would you have done without us?” What indeed? While their stadium-indie contemporaries enjoyed a kind of triumph by watering the message down, The Cribs have spent far too long now meaning so much to so few. The Supremes-standard pop songs they’ve always written have inspired enough frenzied devotion to fill several landfills, to the grand indifference of most of the world. A cynic might say the addition of Johnny Marr (who helped Modest Mouse to a US Number One) to the mix is something more than a fortunate coincidence. They might be right, if not for the fact that there’s nobody in the world more allergic to such pre-meditated cash-ins than the Jarman brothers.
Marr could easily have upstaged them tonight, this being the scene of the first ever Smiths show. But that isn’t the case, despite the rapturous reception that greets him. If the shows they did together last year on the Shockwaves NME Awards Tour showed nerves on both sides, the chemistry here could hardly be more fizzing. Marr even looks like an Uncle Jarman.
The Scrappy-Doo strop-punk that always marked The Cribs out, though, remains the same, as does the chaos. About four songs in, the screen that should, at the end, be used to flash up Lee Ranaldo’s guest monologue on ‘Be Safe’ lowers down a good hour too early, causing Ryan to catch the neck of his guitar on the bottom, lose his footing and pull the whole thing crashing down on top of him. A louche Marr opines, “It’s a Manchester thing. It’s a Lancashire thing. It’s a dickhead thing!”
This five-date mini-tour serves as a road-test for the new songs they’ve all been writing together before heading into the studio. We get five tonight: pounding opener ‘We Were Aborted’, the acrobatic rumble of ‘We Share The Same Skies’, the heroically no-fi ‘Buzz’ and the manic stop-start tourniquet that is ‘Hari Kari’. They’re all classic Cribs songs, maybe even something better than that. But the one ringing in Manchester’s ears is ‘Cheat On Me’. It will be doing the same in yours before the year is out; it’s a gargantuan orgasm of a pop song with a chorus as wide as the February skies. It’s destined to be insanely huge. And as the rest of the room always knew, whoever’s on rhythm guitar, The Cribs’ moment was always going to come.