The Cribs, Ignore The Ignorant
The Jarman brothers are no strangers to name producers. They paired with Bobby Conn, Edwyn Collins and Alex Kapranos on their three previous records, each of whom built their reputations on spiking studio panache with idiosyncratic pop sensibilities. For their fourth offering, the solidly reliable Nick Launay (Arcade Fire, Yeah Yeah Yeahs) helmed — in Los Angeles — and the celebrity associate sprinkling the stardust this time is one Johnny Marr, the guitar hero to people otherwise too cool for guitar heroes. New Crib Marr —more Modest Mouse than Smiths here — gels well with the boys' sound, which seems grungier than before — as if they’ve decided all those "angular" riffs were a fad. He brings sweetness to the savagery.
Overall, it’s a powerful — if sometimes disjointed — statement. With Ryan and Gary pretty much alternating tracks as writer/singer (younger brother Ross plays drums), it’s clear there are two distinct voices tussling for dominance. Gary, now resident in Portland Oregon, having married Jicks/Quasi bassist Joanna Bolme, is the old-school punker of the two, running wild on shouty no-frills tracks like "Cheat On Me" and "Emasculate Me." There’s a touch more thought and reflection, abetted by Marr, on his "Last Year’s Snow", which builds on an epic, sweeping intro. It should also be noted that the jittery title track owes a huge debt to The Smiths' "Panic". It even matches that classic’s disillusioned sentiments, as Ryan Jarman howls of "throwing England to the dogs."
In fact, it’s Ryan who supplies the group's welcome artier leanings, demonstrating an awareness that Television and Talking Heads were as vital as Ramones. "We Were Aborted" may lack subtlety, but its engines get the album going; "City Of Bugs" maximizes a skittering, crablike rhythm, exuding mystery and shadow. "I'm a messed-up baby, like the Berlin Wall" may not technically make sense, but it burrows into your consciousness and stays. "Victim of Mass Production" is an air-clearing, irate polemic, targeted as much at followers of fashion trends as at world leaders. After seven years of growing up in public — not always in the most dignified manner — the Cribs and their somewhat over-qualified new guitarist have succeeded in making us talk about their songs rather than their haircuts. Still railing at British culture, their anger is given depth and resonance by the fact that the music between the sloganeering stands up for itself.