The Cribs are a British trio that has been on the Tripwire radar for quite some time. We have watched this trio of brothers from Wakefield go from a crunchy, distorted, lo-fi rock machine on their 2004 self-titled release to a much more finely tuned and somewhat polished act with The New Fellas. For album number three, the lads teamed up with Franz Ferdinand's Alex Kapranos for their most mature effort to date, Men's Needs, Women's Needs, Whatever.
What makes the three-album evolution interesting for The Cribs is that they have never lost their bit of rock rebelliousness that made them intriguing when we first met them a few years ago. Their infectious pop melodies may shine through much more clearly with more refined production these days, but they're still far from a polished pop band, and we hope they stay that way.
Ryan, Gary and Ross Jarman have never been in short supply of great material, which is mighty obvious with the album opener, "Our Bovine Public." It kicks off like a classic Cribs track, raw and edgy, with abrasively accented vocals. Even with the addition of Kapranos to the mix as producer, besides a few more layers of guitars and harmonies, they still sound like the band we know and love. In fact, it isn't until "Girls Like Mystery" that we finally feel his influence on the album. The melody is much smoother, with brother Gary actually singing bits in falsetto.
"Men's Needs" is the hit of the album. This should be a damn summer smash across the planet, containing everything you need for a badass pop song. The track zips along with a sick guitar part, which is the glue that keeps this one together. The hook on this is about as catchy as you can get, as Ryan belts out the chorus, "The men's needs are full of greed." It has just a hint of a pulsating synth underneath the rest of the instrumentation, giving the single a good bit of pop to balance out the bite of the guitars and vocals.
One thing that Men's Needs has allowed The Cribs to do is to toss in a few cuts that are a bit less straightforward. For example, "I'm A Realist," during which Gary declares that he is a realist, a romantic, and an "indecisive piece of shit." The track starts fairly chilled out and stripped down, waiting until nearly two minutes in until Ryan's guitars go berserk and Ross' cymbals get a good bashing.
Quite possibly the most interesting song on the album is the epic "Be Safe." This features some killer spoken-word by Sonic Youth's Lee Renaldo, with the Jarmans only singing backup and the chorus. Musically it is fucking powerful, with Ryan's guitar work never sounding stronger, pushing The Cribs to areas that even longtime fans might not have expected. Ah, so The Cribs are more than just a crunchy pop band. With material like this, I've got a hunch that this trio has plenty of surprises left for us.
"Ancient History" is another standout, especially once it crosses the halfway mark. Finally mastering the loud-soft song structure, the trio gets a few opportunities to crank up the amps and beat the living shit out of their drums. The final minute and a half, with the lads chanting the ending lyrics together as the tempo slowly speeds up to the brink of utter chaos, is The Cribs at their best. Pop and noise definitely have the ability to go work together in perfect harmony.
As somebody who has been hyping up this band for a few years now, it is a thrill to see them truly come into their own. While they haven't lost their edge or their sharp sense of humor, the Jarman brothers have matured just a bit in developing their sound. Now somebody please tell me why this band isn't dominating the charts around the globe, because they should be.