Like much of their other work before it, The Cribs’ fifth studio album In The Belly of the Brazen Bull has divided opinion like a marmite sandwich since its release this month. Some have lauded it as another addition to their catalogue of disaffected lo-fi anthems, while others have described it as mid-afternoon festival filler which fails to fulfill the promise of their breakthrough album, Man’s Needs, Woman’s Needs, Whatever. For my money, the truth lies somewhere between those two theories, yet what can’t be denied is the cult following for this Wakefield group.
Ever since they delayed recording their second album, instead choosing to tour the country playing anywhere that would have them for “fuel money and a crate of beer”, the band have enjoyed a strong and committed fanbase who not only dig their unpolished sound, but love the way they have refused to retreat from it. The result is a pretty unique live experience, yet I can’t help but wish that more of their new material caught the ear and stayed in your head the way the old stuff did. I don’t mind putting a bit of effort into an album, but tracks that jump out of the iPod are far better.
To their credit, The Cribs mixed the old and new with skill at The Troxy on Tuesday night and after opening with some fresh stuff, they whipped up a storm with a trio of punchy riff-heavy hits. The juddering ‘I’m A Realist‘ and ‘We Were Aborted‘ – which swings sorrowfully before changing pace with the kind of hook that defined the band’s 2007 watershed – was followed by ‘Hey Scenesters‘. Given the queue for the cloakroom after the lights went up, it was an appropriate choice and it built a great platform for some of their most promising new material.
‘Come On, Be A No One‘ has been earmarked to lead the new release, yet despite it’s excellent title, it felt a bit pedestrian. With its grungy undertones, ‘Anna‘ was far more impressive and as the empty plastic glasses stacked up at my feet, we got some of the new album and some cracking stuff from their early days.
For its part, The Troxy was the perfect venue for the whole thing. I’d never heard of the East London theatre before the gig, but with it’s flat carpeted stalls, it felt like The Cribs were playing in a massive living room. Which was no bad thing. God knows what upstairs was like, but anyone who avoids the floor deserves everything they get.
After a mid-section of new stuff, they dragged everyone back in with ‘Mirror Kissers‘ and ‘Cheat On Me‘, before rolling out ‘Another Number’ from their first album. The stripped back ballad was one of the highlights of the night, but served to demostrate the difference between the well-defined songs The Cribs used to make and the more crowded, edgeless ones of later years. ‘Man’s Needs‘ and a pounding rendition of ‘City of Bugs‘ provided a satisfying encore but it was ‘Be Safe‘ which really set the place alight and as Lee Ranaldo talked his way to the song’s throbbing crescendo on the giant back-screen, the gig reached its high-water mark.