Band, know thyself.
Fourteen years and six albums since forming in northern England, the Cribs certainly do.
The Jarman brothers’ shrewd and often very British reinterpretation of the Strokes-led American alt explosion won them critical praise and a dedicated following early on. No signs of slowing down exist at the present, as their last two albums broke the top ten on the UK Official Albums Chart, a testament to both their staying power and their continued ascent.
While they’ve certainly strayed further into pop on For All My Sisters, their sixth record is undeniably classic Cribs. Their power-pop-punk sound has never been sharper, even if it is a little safe. It’s light on the social consciousness, politics, danger, scandal, and feedback. But it is heavy on the Cribs being the Cribs, singing about girls while spilling their hearts into guitar solos and middle eights. It doesn’t break new ground, nor does it really need to. Some records are just made to be enjoyed.
For being a quote-unquote rock band, the Cribs know what makes a pop song tick. Their Top 40 sensibilities and jangly riffs hold together the deliriously fun “Burning For No One,” which is also the most obvious evidence of former member Johnny Marr’s (yes, that one) lasting influence. Whether letting the melancholia simmer in “Simple Story” or channeling the loud and lovelorn nostalgia of former 90s kids in “Mr. Wrong,” the Cribs keep the emotions and the melodies straightforward.
While the album occasionally stumbles over its own arena tour ambitions and well-meaning clichés – “Find me in the city where no one knows my name” feels too familiar on “Diamond Girl” – the Cribs never seem insincere or in denial of their pop persuasions.
Neither are they blindly committed to such persuasions. Seven-minute album closer “Pink Snow” finds the group outside the traditional verse-chorus-bridge-chorus boundaries and spread among spiraling solos, dreamy riffs and a colossal refrain. Laws of physics be damned: the vibrant finale occupies significant space without tilting the album disproportionately towards the back half. Isaac Newton would not be pleased.
A decade removed from their self-titled debut, the Cribs edge ever closer towards veteran status. The proof is less in the years than it is in the band’s younger emulators currently storming the indie scene. Groups like Circa Waves and Catfish and the Bottlemen have clearly done their homework with the Cribs’ previous albums. They would do well to keep that habit, and to listen to For All My Sisters with a pen in hand.