14 Feb 2015

The Cribs / For All My Sisters (album review)

"Ah no! The Cribs have gone pop" is what you'd be led to believe from some of the headlines leading up to the trio's 6th album, For All My Sisters. And maybe that's true to an extent; there are ooh-oohs and ah-ahs littered around all over the lyrics, and harmonies that wouldn't be out of place on Please Please Me, but to dismiss the LP as 'going pop' is a long shot away from telling the whole story. 

Bar a few exceptions, there are certainly more big anthemic choruses than thrashy guitar tracks that sound like they were recorded in a kitchen. But is that really so far from 2012's Belly Of The Brazen Bull? I don't think so; the escalating chorus of Pacific Time builds up in the same raw, passionate way that (one of my favourite Cribs tracks) Back To The Bolthole does, and Different Angle flaunts a (relevantly) angular Ryan Jarman riff that could slot into any of the last two or three albums without any eyelashes being batted. In the rawest of senses, these are perfect pop songs, but more in the way that Shadowplay, Cut Your Hair and Smells Like Teen Spirit are perfect pop songs, as opposed to being reflective of their musical style.

Although as well as that, there is certainly an undeniable pop sound on lead single Burning For No One, as well as An Ivory Hand and Summer Of Chances - maybe at the helm of a different band these would top the charts - big choruses make them anthemic Cribs tracks that are going to sound amazing in a live context. And that's just what you want really, because The Cribs are one of those bands that are always much better live, and they've certainly succeeded in writing some incredible songs. The first of those, Burning For No One, as well as being a great pop song, is a total mission statement - yes, it's a poppy, poppy, pop song with a right proper hook and that, but the lyrics (Like a candle on a vacant table (...) I'm burning for no one) tell it like it is; The Cribs aren't making a pop album because they've sold out and are on a major, they're making a more pop-based record because that's what they want to do - after all, they did say in an interview that they've been listening almost exclusively to 80's pop since the release of the last LP.

Anyone that's heard the album in full, though, will know that until this point I've not mentioned the best bit of it; to understand just how amazing the 7-minute long closer Pink Snow is, you're going to have to listen to it, loud. Through seven minutes of quiet bit-loud bit dynamics, explosive, woozy riffs, and the killer refrain that gives the album it's title, it's easy to see just why Pink Snow is one of the Jarmans' personal favourite songs from their expansive discography, and why I'd be inclined to agree. It's both a perfect pop moment, and some indie guitar thrash that completely transcends anything their peers could ever muster.

So yes, For All My Sisters is more of a pop-focal effort, but The Cribs have done it to perfection. Unlike Arctic Monkeys, Kasabian and maybe even bands like Coldplay, The Cribs have managed to exaggerate a poppy dimension that was already there without alienating any of their loyal fanbase. Yeah, it's not a chart topper, but For All My Sisters just amplifies this: not only have The Cribs, six albums in, never released a bad album, but they have, in fact, never released an album that isn't fantastic.