The Quietus - A new rock music and pop culture website


Cranes And Mothlite Gig Preview
The Quietus , April 1st, 2010 19:06

Next Wednesday, April 7th, the Quietus and Meanfiddler are teaming up to present 90s dreamgazers Cranes at the Jazz Cafe, ably supported by the excellent Talk Talk-influenced Mothlite.

You can buy tickets for the gig here, listen to Cranes on Spotify here, and while doing so have a read of this profile of Cranes by our man Iain Moffat:

Fun though the big alternative breakthrough of twenty years ago was, the brashness of baggy wasn't for everyone, and consequently it was also a boom period for bands with a somewhat blurrier way of operating; even by the standards of the age, though, Cranes were an obtuse proposition. Actually formed in Portsmouth as early as the mid-80s and built around the nucleus of Shaw siblings Alison and Jim (clearly both the architects and the Carpenters of dream pop), they honed their blend of Cocteausian extradimensional exploration, industrial-inflected (and industrial-strength) dissonance and Valentines-aligned mesmeric sketchery across a series of none-more-obscure compilations before their 1989 mini-album Self Not Self made its way into the clutches of an admiring Peel, and by the time of debut single and breakthrough indie hit 'Inescapable' they were chiming marvellously with the times. Actually, they were chiming marvellously full stop.

Not, mind you, that they were a strictly shoe concern - they never sought the embrace of The Scene That Celebrates Itself, they were capable of a harshness that many of their contemporaries couldn't muster, and Alison's distinctive vocal style (horror Lolita scratching away at glass-filled bubble wrap, essentially, and you don't hear that every day, do you) was among the most polarising and uncompromising in recent memory - but they were close enough to it to be treated as a major indie prospect for a time, becoming a fixture in the Melody Maker's year-end lists and actually scraping the real world charts with Wings Of Joy, an album of already-remarkable breadth that's probably the last record we can recall being admiringly described as "foetal" and should really have brought them their first bona fide hit in the superb and, with hindsight, curiously Tori Amos-inventing 'Tomorrow's Tears'.

Yet rather than the swift fade afforded to the bulk of their peers, the Cranes actually thrived for some time, even if 'Jewel''s presence as a top 30 single was greeted with disbelief by the NME (always the toughest nut for them to crack, press-wise, although, notably and perhaps uniquely, Steve Lamacq would ultimately apologise on air for having famously dismissed them as "appalling"), and, while Britpop fractured many an early-90s hopeful, they simply scurried further underground and luxuriated in their hard-earned international cult status instead of messily imploding.

A wise move, that, since it's allowed them to carry on to the point where, astoundingly, that silver jubilee's in the offing, and, while some of the essential elements have evolved - the personnel, mostly, although a string of fine albums in the noughties saw them delving into more electronic waters without ever embarrassingly repositioning them as a dancier affair - their impenetrability and impact remain undimmed. If anything, their influence can be more keenly felt now than ever, with two of 2010's strongest singles so far, Esben and the Witch's 'Lucia, At The Precipice' and Zola Jesus' 'Night' both heavily reflecting their dark distress; brilliantly, they've blossomed from gothic juvenilia to godparently mercuriality almost imperceptibly, and it suits them better than anyone could've predicted...

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.