The Cribs - In The Belly Of The Brazen Bull
- By Chris Jefferies -
- May 01, 2012
It would be fair to say that The Cribs' Ryan Jarman has had a fairly tough time of late. Ending his high-profile relationship with singer songwriter Kate Nash, as well as his musical alliance with The Smiths' former guitarist Johnny Marr left him in something of a dark place. In an interview with the NME earlier this year, he admitted to periods of self-loathing and depression, but claims that this is now behind him due to the excitement of releasing his fifth studio album, backed as usual by his brothers Gary and Ross.
'In The Belly Of The Brazen Bull' is the result of this period of introspection and Dave Fridmann is the latest name in The Cribs' revolving roster of producers (The Flaming Lips, Weezer, Mogwai). In terms of progression this record seems like a step back towards the band's earlier work as a trio, with standout tracks 'Chi Town' and 'Come On, Be A No-One' both offering seriously catchy hooks and snarling punk vocals. Those expecting a barrage of riffs and singalongs in the vein of 2007's 'Men's Needs, Women's Needs, Whatever' will be disappointed, however.
'Glitters Like Gold' is a hard-hitting and direct opener, but the laborious 'Jaded Youth' and the cumbersome 'Uptight' fail to keep up the tempo. Indeed, the band's style remains distinctly coloured by their hit-and-miss collaboration with Marr on 2009's 'Ignore The Ignorant'.
What's more, there is a noticeable leaning towards the most abstract soundscapes of Sonic Youth, no doubt influenced by their brief dalliance with Lee Ranaldo on their six-minute epic 'Be Safe', which featured on 'Men's Needs...' and was their most ambitious recording to date. That is until you hear the last track on this new album.
Split into four parts, 'Stalagmites / Like A Gift Giver / Butterflies / Arena Rock Encore With Full Cast' is far removed from anything that The Cribs have ever recorded before. Admittedly the Jarman boys have always shown a leaning towards the avant garde and experimental, but this is something else entirely. Starting with an eerie, unsettling riff that would leave The Mars Volta scratching their heads, this 11-minute epic slowly unfolds, moving from dense grungy walls of sound to an uplifting sing-along crescendo. This is a suitable payoff for the slight indulgence of this mammoth composition, which Ryan himself seems to admit, self-consciously singing: "I'm sorry that it's taken years / We were victims of our own ideals."
It's clear that The Cribs are still very much trying to stretch themselves on this latest record, unwilling to rest on their laurels and just churn out catchy tunes. 'Brazen Bull' is another highly ambitious album from the Wakefield trio that will set them further apart from the mainstream humdrum that they detest so much, but it's also quite heavy going in places and demands an open mind and a real sense of adventure.
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