The Cribs // In The Belly Of The Brazen Bull // May 7 // Wichita
If there’s one thing I hate about Britain musically then it has to be the blind following of American acts. Everytime some young musicians from the states start making waves over here we just have to manufacture our own copy of it. Whichever way you look at it The Cribs are a sub par copy of The Strokes. Yeah they have couple of tunes here and there and their live shows are rather fun but it doesn’t hide the fact that in 2012 they are relics of the indie rock era that are really not that dissimilar to Kaiser Chiefs or whatever other oldies unwilling to change we have left. In The Belly Of The Brazen bull is their fifth album and the familiar formula is starting to show its wrinkles.
First things first, Johnny Marr has left the band. They are once again a trio of Jarman brothers. While Marr didn’t really change the band into something it was never meant to be, he brought a touch that made a great live band release a good studio LP Ignore The Ignorant. It’s evident that while their sound is back to its noisier roots, the approach to recording an LP hasn’t changed since 2009 and it doesn’t really work with the songs that the band is presenting here. The Cribs’ power pop assault always worked in small numbers. It’s fair to call them a singles band. It makes very little sense that In The Belly Of The Brazen Bull is extremely long, or at least feels like it. The 14 songs on here stick to Cribs’ meat and potatoes as the lack of guitar touch from Marr forces them to go back to their old trick of students playing with their love of Libertines in their local university union. See the really generic tracks like Come On, Be A No-One and Chi-Town for something that sounds like a new garage rock band recording demos for their debut album, putting dumb energy before attention catching songwriting. In The Belly Of The Brazen Bull does not sound like a 5th album by people who are starting to get into their 30s. It might make it an easy starting point for the band but for someone who follows these lads from their debut album, the lack of innovation and return to energy fueled MOR power pop is starting to get grating.
All of this wouldn’t be a problem if Cribs’ new LP had what their fans crave for, big tunes to shout along to. I could go onto a personal rant about how The New Fellas didn’t improve upon its predecessor but then again, hey, it gave us Hey Scenesters, Martell and Mirror Kissers. I could go on who Men’s Needs, Women’s Needs, Whatever sucked the energy out of their lo-fi garage rock roots but then again Men’s Needs is an indie disco classic. Somehow none of this can be said about In The Belly Of The Brazen Bull which is far too linear and doesn’t offer too many memorable moments that could shine brighter than the album. The production on here is slightly out of touch with what these guys should be doing too. Guitars are dirtier than ever before while all the vocals have a touch of reverb applied to them which makes the overall sound unnecessary muddy and takes away some of the energy that the trio still got pinned down in their live shows. Steve Albini was involved in producing this record but unlike the in-your-face assault of Could Nothings’ Attack On Memory, In The Belly Of A Brazen Bull feels like a jaded anarchist. The tracks on here are just way too slow with most of the second half of the record not sounding like anything these lads will ever perform live. Even the acoustic I Should Have Helped sounds refreshing when placed alongside clunkers like Stalagmites. They might not sound like The Strokes anymore but that doesn’t mean that they’ve hit onto something gold here.
Which all makes for an interesting observation on how The Cribs have changed their approach to recording but not their approach to songwriting. Even if the grittier sound might make them sound more authentic, it doesn’t necessarily fit or make them sound more exciting than they already were during the last decade. The Strokes might be shit nowadays but at least few moments on Angles were genuinely unpredictable. On In The Belly Of The Brazen Bull The Cribs still sound the same but while their 2nd album was better than 1st, 3rd introduced them to the mainstream and 4th had Johnny Marr on it, 5th outing has absolutely nothing new to offer. The Cribs might have escaped the landfill back in the day but the age and monotony has caught up with them.