Review: The Cribs – In the Belly of the Brazen Bull
Published on May 15th, 2012 | Jonny Abrams
Right, who else had The Cribs down as skinny jeans-wearing, nu-garage-rock-something-or-other scenesters? And if they were, what happened to them? Do they owe Johnny Marr this verging-on-Teenage-Fanclub gorgeousness, or was it always within them? Going by other writings, it would seem that they have, and as such Rocksucker’s apologies are in order.
Whatever the answers, they’ve made a genuinely fine album with In the Belly of the Brazen Bull, and I for one can barely believe some of the other artists I’m about to reference here. For starters, it’s worth noting that production duties were shared by two of the most illustrious guys going, Dave Fridmann and Steve Albini, and I really couldn’t sum up the disparity of their methods any better than Ian Cohen Of Pitchfork when he wrote “anyone who’s heard both The Soft Bulletin and Rid of Me knows that only makes sense as some sort of buddy cop stunt casting.”
However, the respective inputs of both are perceptible throughout a production that is rich, warm and beautifully laid-out, various elements counter-balancing each other in the mix a la The Flaming Lips, and chugging, Kim Deal-y bass underpinning and driving the explosive, fuzzy performances a la Pixies. And we haven’t even got onto the tunes themselves yet.
If someone doesn’t tell me which song opener “Glitters Like Gold” pilfers its chorus from then I might go crazy. Some ’80s hit or other? Nevertheless, it sounds great, silly keyboard interjections playing off the chiming electric guitarpeggios and a climactic dynamic that keeps things enthralling even when they aren’t all that original. Lovely measured vocals, lovely Joey Santiago guitar lines – all is gravy.
“Come On, Be a No-One” has a grin-inducingly drunk, roar-along chorus that could be Bon Jovi stripped of all the douchiness and infused with a Pulp-like majesty, while the stomping, good-time power-pop of “Anna” throws hints of The Stone Roses and Sonic Youth into this heady mix, sealing the deal with deliciously breezy “wooo” harmonies.
“Uptight” is anything but, recalling the sadly-missed Beulah with is lazy, double-tracked, slightly-out-of-tune-but-that-makes-it-good-somehow vocals, and going on to sound like a cross between Teenage Fanclub and The Cardigans with Ronald Jones-era Flaming Lips lead guitar in its second verse. Meanwhile, “Pure O” sounds like a sweetened Vaccines with shades of Built to Spill and Grandaddy. Suffice it to say, The Cribs sure belie their Yorkshire roots here.
Elsewhere, “I Should Have Helped” pairs the happy couple of acoustic fingerpicking and canny songwriting flourishes, “Stalagmites” starts with a discordant, Primus-esque lead riff before flowering into a captivating cross between Blur’s “Oily Water” and Doves’ “Words” with added flue and strings, and then the three-part medley of “Lift a Gift Giver”, “Butterflies” and “Arena Rock Encore With Full Cast” variously evokes the Fannies, Ash and The Cure, bringing it all to a close doing good by the latter’s fabulous title.
All in all, In the Belly of the Brazen Bull represents one of the most pleasant surprises of the year thus far, and perfectly positions its creators as something of a ‘should-see-unless-they’re-clashing-with-something-truly-special-or-you’re-just-too-hung-over-to-move’ at whichever festivals they grace this summer (T in the Park and Leeds being two). Hats off.
Rocksucker says: Four Quails out of Five!