The Quietus - A new rock music and pop culture website

Reviews

The Cribs
Ignore The Ignorant Ben Hewitt , September 11th, 2009 11:02

"Teenage angst has paid off well / Now I'm bored and old". So sang Kurt Cobain on the opening lines of In Utero as he tried to push the disaffected adolescent musings of Nevermind into more mature territory, attempting to alienate the less welcome elements of their fanbase in the process.

While comparisons between Nirvana and The Cribs will no doubt have Cobain worshippers foaming at the mouth, the Wakefield outfit seem to have arrived at a similar crossroads. After winning over excitable teens with their ripped jeans, jagged power chords and sneering dismissals of scenesters, they're starting to exhibit unmistakeable signs of maturity — a process that began when they handed over production duties for 2007's Men's Needs, Women's Needs, Whatever to Franz Ferdinand's Alex Kapranos who duly added a lick of pop sheen to their raucous sound, and continued with the introduction of indie elder statesman Johnny Marr as a fully-fledged band member last year. Even the politically motivated title of Ignore The Ignorant — a riposte to the rising popularity of the BNP — indicates a growing level of seriousness.

This may be welcome news to everyone who understands that every Angry Young Man eventually runs out of vitriol and youthfulness and has to grow up, but it doesn't sit quite so well with card-carrying members of The Cribs fanbase. Underground grumblings can already be heard from disgruntled punters who feel that watching a group who were so enticingly young, dumb and full of cum grow gracefully old wasn't part of the deal.

Yet much like the rumours of vast reinvention that surrounded Arctic Monkeys before the release of Humbug, fears that Ignore The Ignorant would be a seismic departure from The Cribs' previous work have been greatly exaggerated. Far from weakened or watered down, it retains the formula that won them so much adoration but gives it a darker, deeper fine tuning. The chugging three-chord riff and rabble-rousing refrain of opening track 'We Were Aborted' is as abrasive as anything in The Cribs' canon, while it's business as usual on the crunchy chorus of lead single 'Cheat On Me'. And along with the politically charged title, it doesn't seem as if twin siblings and co-songwriters Gary and Ryan Jarman are likely to abandon their uncompromising acerbic lyrics, either — it's unlikely that couplets taking a pop at the Nuts generation ("mid-shelf masturbation / Leaves a smear on half the nation") and those who lack indie credentials ("he will only wear / The things he sees in magazines") would pop up on the next Thom Yorke album, after all.

Instead, then, The Cribs have opted for evolution rather than revolution. Their hallmark relentless aggression has been nurtured into a more expansive, brooding sound. Songs are given room to breathe rather than being crushed by aggression, melodies are able to sparkle instead of being drowned out by mounds of sludge, and the insistent vocal screeches of previous efforts are more varied and subtle. Then, of course, there's Johnny Marr, whose gorgeous guitar work underpins many of the album's highlights. His fingerprints are all over the cascading jangling riff that weaves its way through 'We Share The Same Skies'. With the usual serrated guitars taking a backseat to Marr's spidery melody, it's a luxuriant treat that evokes the pulsating pure-pop of The Smiths' 'What Difference Does It Make?' Equally impressive is the growling 'City Of Bugs', a groove-propelled beast swimming layers of fuzzy feedback. Rather than going straight for the jugular, the seductively drawled vocal builds into a gloomy six-minute epic reminiscent of Sonic Youth at their most brooding. Honourable mention should also be reserved for the elegiac vulnerability of 'Last Year's Snow' which showcases tender and bruised regret, and the brutal dissection of youthful ennui on the thoughtful 'Stick To Yr Guns'.

There are disappointments. Adding depth and sensitivity is one thing, but 'Save Your Secrets' is probably still searching in vain for its missing testicles; it's a damp and lifeless affair devoid of any fiery spark. On the other side of the spectrum, 'Emasculate Me' is as straightforward a display of cock rock as you're likely to witness this side of the 1980s. But despite these sticky patches, Ignore The Ignorant is far from being a sedate affair, and arguably the most accomplished Cribs album to date — a successful marriage of raw and raucous energy with sharper melodies and more expansive ideas. By polishing and honing their craft, The Cribs have evolved into a much more compelling creature. Who said growing up couldn't be fun?

If you love our features, news and reviews, please support what we do with a one-off or regular donation. Year-on-year, our corporate advertising is down by around 90% - a figure that threatens to sink The Quietus. Hit this link to find out more and keep on Black Sky Thinking.