The Cribs In The Belly Of The Brazen Bull(Wichita Recordings) Buy it from Insound
The interesting idea about Johnny Marr and The Cribs, I think, is that they don’t really need him. Undoubtedly, their infamy increased without question during his tenure, but, I’m going to say this again: they don’t need him. And not to need the most virtuous guitarist of his generation is quite astounding, in the sense that, they never really needed him in the first place, but hey, who’s not going to have him join their band. In retrospect, Ignore The Ignorant (Marr’s only LP with the band) might have been somewhat of a departure for The Cribs from their essential pocket of indie rock, and subsequently what follows is both a reflective acquaintance with their former selves, yet also a quite substantial modification of their sound.
The apocalyptic groove of Glitters Like Gold, the opening track, screeches a poisonous cry – it is undoubtedly familiar, but not at all comforting. If you left the band behind at The New Fellas (their sophomore record) and returned at this juncture, what you would find would be a harrowing discovery. The sound manages to escape indie parameters (whether it’s trying to or not) yet all of the elements are essentially within that field. Likewise, Uptight, which straddles the record, has a somewhat defeated blend of self-deprecating lyrics and coarse falsetto: No-one has to tell me, I know I have to let it go…I’m sorry I will never be the kind of guy you like.
You are affronted in the most clear and undeniable terms on a record that, not only has a heavy heart, but is submerged in disillusionment and disappointment. On the rare, but enchanting acoustic track, I Should Have Helped, the soothing vocal divulges further the sense of realism and regret. The sentimental and helpless lyrics call: I used to think I knew something that no-one else knew, I was a fool.
To their credit, you never feel that anything is contrived or imagined beyond its actual existence with The Cribs. There are no pretensions or agendas behind the many very personal and affecting tributes to the obstacles of their lives. In a recent Interview, Ryan Jarman explained of the track Chi-Town: “[It] is addressing demons that I’ve had for a long time,” he continued, “on the face of it, it may seem this big punk rock song but basically it’s just very personal.” That may be somewhat of an understatement. Throughout, although there are moments of the upbeat, ‘bash it out’ Cribs of old on tracks like Come On, Be a No-One and Jaded Youth, you basically can’t escape the intense and suffocating air of pain.
These are sounds of frustration, malice and self-contempt with heartbreak and desolation thrown in for good measure. When you arrive at Pure O there’s an unerring feeling that this isn’t fun anymore, that all the wounds are being sealed with a searing iron and their ablutions are being performed. On this great journey of theirs through a relatively narrow genre they’ve turned over every stone, unearthed every root, and panned every idea for the worth that they could extract. Where they have arrived is somewhere they perhaps themselves never imagined; Jarman explained: “we’d just done two records on a major label and you don’t realise that you’ve deviated from what you originally set out to do.”
On this record, the guitars are far more expansive than they have ever been, submitting themselves to the arena sound; the legacy of Johnny Marr upon their recorded sound is that it has become a polished machine rather than their previous disjointed cohesion, which was so adored and, maybe, they have just become better musicians who have honed their craft with greater aplomb. I’m sure the ambition for In The Belly Of The Brazen Bull was to return to their roots and re-ignite the passions of old. The trouble is, they’ve outgrown that attitude. Today’s Cribs is no less punk orientated than old, it’s just that maturity has caught them in perverse hold where the message doesn’t quite match the spirit. In The Belly of The Brazen Bull sees the band more concerned than they ever were before, about anything really; more realistic, although I hate that phrase, and undoubtedly not the band it was eight years ago.
So, you may be thinking, it must have been to their detriment to lose Johnny Marr considering this record’s failings. Well, not at all. This record had to be made in the vein that it was; these issues needed to be cremated and more than anything; this band needed to be the three siblings it originally began as. Although this may not be a masterpiece in the repertoire, I can’t say that it lacks anything in particular, in fact, the opposite is true. It gives too much. There just became a point where I needed to avert my attention away from the heart-ache for the sake of the songwriters, or was it for my myself?