Before unpacking my RAR file... I was reading the 'In the Belly of the Brazen Bull' Wikipedia page, thinking to myself how Wichita Recordings have enough money lying around for the services of Steve Albini in Chicago, David Fridmann in New York City and the use of Abbey Road Studios in London. Are you actually serious Wichita??? You're an independent record label for Christ sake; don't bankrupt yourself on a The Cribs album, that's not the right way to strike out. Anyway, this is the fifth instalment of West Yorkshire based indie rockers The Cribs. Legendary journeyman guitarist Johnny Marr parted with the band after the release of their fourth studio album Ignore The Ignorant (which I personally thought was their best album to date). According to press releases, Marr left the band so he could adventure into solo material. The Cribs are now back to a three piece and that's the way they intended it to be in the first place.
Albini's noisy influence has affected the musical output of The Cribs. As of now, I can't be too sure who engineered what, but I know Albini worked with the band on the belated single 'Chi Town'. Chi Town is a completely different side to The Cribs and a step in the right direction. Albini's presence can clearly be felt on the entire track, from the Chicago related lyrics to the cutting edge recording of the drums. It sounds great and the guitar solo towards the end is a piece of confidence and control. Likewise with the opening track 'Glitters Like Gold' which has an epic opening of guitar layers and straight forward noise. The single piece of amazement on this track is the vocal hook on the chorus which has a 'stadium rock' feel and is designed for a specific time of listening. The run-in is great and every instrument has been recorded to the best of the musician’s quality. It's an impressive opening track and the lyrics also show a keener side such as the aforementioned 'vocal hook' "forever, release me. Finally dance around me, whatever you think about me. I'm the wealth beneath the shell who would ever, believe me? Yeah!"
Lead single 'Come On, Be No One' has a brilliant riff and an even better vocal. The reverberated vocal sounds fresh and crisp and the guitar work is imaginative. The lack of Marr hasn’t affected the bands width, and it surely hasn’t altered their song structures, which are as 90's as ever. The thumping chorus is a barrel of fun and it’s something for the fans to enjoy after the five year disappointment from a lack of single material since 'Men's Need's'. The crisp guitar sound continues on the distortion filled 'Jaded Youth'. The abrasive chorus stands on the shoulder of giants as the verse represents an artsy use of confounded lyricism. 'Anna' is a return to the darker early days of The Cribs, where every track was about girls. This track goes over my head quite easily, as does the following track 'Confident Men'. This track has nice minimal drumming and a splendid bass progression, but the clean guitar effects expose the poor vocals and the lyrics aren’t too great either.
'Uptight' is one of the loudest Cribs tracks I’ve ever heard. The opening piece is extremely heavy and the noise influence is definitely there. This is lo-fi and the D.I.Y aesthetics are in full flow with an electrifying chorus which sees the singing duo of Gary and Ryan ace their vocal. They deliver another remarkable vocal on the track 'Pure O' which sees the trio reach a new height as a band, entering the second half of the album with one of their best instrumentals and vocals. The melody is great and the mini breakdown 90 seconds in puts good production to use as we hear the clear drumming and decisive left sided guitar and right sided guitar deliver an angry emotion.
The more we explore In the Belly of the Brazen Bull, the deeper we get. The guitar drones and vocal harmonies on 'Back To The Bolthole' are beyond my original expectations. The guitars sound great, and the drumming is punk at its strongest. 'I Should Have Helped' is a melodic acoustic guitar track which features melancholy guitar work and realistic amateur recordings which could all be one takes for all we know. The guitars sound mellow as the vocals hit the high notes with that Jarman vibe. It's a lovely little break in-between the noise tracks, as we witness another drone track which exceeds the sound barrier, 'Stalagmites'. The xylophone playing is subdued by the marching style drumming, both of which are obscured by the low sound of the distorted guitars. The final 40 seconds see the strings make their impact, Abbey Road Studios at its best.
Unlike previous The Cribs albums, the final three tracks correlate to create a magnetic ending of mellow flow and outstanding dynamics. 'Like a Gift Giver' has a remarkable vocal melody with ounces of reverb applied among the heavy bass and withdrawn drumming undertones. It's mellow mood leads gently into 'Butterflies', which has an 80's vibe with the acoustic guitar work and The Smiths-esque guitar work (surprisingly). This three minute track is filled with vocal layers and guitar solos which allow The Cribs to step further out of the door towards freedom of alternative rock. The xylophone returns with the marching drum and drone guitars to close the track off. Closing The Cribs fifth albums is the spacious and anthemic 'Arena Rock Encore With Full Cast'. This track is a dig at two things as far as I can see. 1) Bands that aim to play big arenas. 2) Bands that participate in encores. As hardcore The Cribs fans will know, they don't take advantage of the 'encore' style.
I have to give it to them; this is without a doubt an outstanding improvement on Ignore the Ignorant. This album is lo-fi, it's retro and it has a badass production team behind it. Above all, it has three guys who strive to improve. They've achieved that by a country mile with this miraculous noisy 14 track album. There’s not a lot I can actually criticize negatively, and that surprises me. Some of the structures are predictable, but that's what you expect when you begin listening to The Cribs. Vocal hooks and choruses designed for 90's kids. "Sorry that it's taken years, we were victims of our own ideals."