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The Cribs

England’s answer to American post-punk/lo-fi combo PAVEMENT (and others), The CRIBS are at least top dogs in their own backyard, having been given respective achievement awards by Q magazine and the NME in 2012. Also immortalised for giving another string to the bow of big fan JOHNNY MARR (ex-SMITHS guitar legend who’d quit MODEST MOUSE in 2009 to fully sign in), the brothers Jarman had a chance to fly high among a thriving indie industry.
Formed late 2001 in Wakefield, West Yorkshire, The CRIBS consisted of Gary Jarman (vocals/bass), his twin Ryan (guitar/vocals) and younger sibling Ross (drums/percussion). Cutting their inaugural demo at their own Springtime Studios, the trio were ready to perform at the nearby Brudenell Social Club in Leeds, while support to the likes of CALVIN JOHNSON, VIC GODARD et al, created a stir among “squat/warehouse” venues. Two songs from that particular demo, `Baby Don’t Sweat’ and `You And I’, made it on to a shared/split EP, released February 2003 alongside indie friend Jen Schande, urging major label interest in a quest to find a British STROKES.
Wichita Recordings won the battle, co-founder Mark Bowen impressed after apparently witnessing a gig at the Metro on Oxford Street. Flown from Chicago to London in order to co-produce the young trio, long-established avant-indie geezer BOBBY CONN bailed after one solitary song (`Tri’elle’) and several gigs together, although engineer Ed Deegan took over the mantle for the remainder of the ToeRag Studio cuts. Having failed to register a chart place for `Another Number’, a second single `You Were Always The One’, cracked the Top 75, paving the way for the band’s eponymous debut THE CRIBS (2004) {*6}. Endorsed by the NME (8/10), if no one else, garage-rock and an evidently deep love of The STROKES, PAVEMENT and ASH were all over the pop-fuelled, baby-steps set. Arriving only a matter of weeks on the back of FRANZ FERDINAND’s classy Top 3 maiden LP, The CRIBS’ adulterated geeky post-Britpop sound was mistimed and under numerous cries of “rip-off merchants”. The likes of second minor hit, `What About Me’, couldn’t pull the wool over most people’s eyes, but there was roomfuls of potential.
Healthier in respects to big hitters, four of them, all Top 40 and in the shape of signature tune `Hey Scenesters!’, `Mirror Kissers’, `Martell’, plus the vinyl-only (BERNARD BUTLER-produced) `You’re Gonna Lose Us’, EDWYN COLLINS seemed to get the best out of the lo-fi band as knob-twiddler for sophomore parent set, THE NEW FELLAS (2005) {*8}. Attendant tours of the world garnered extra impetus for the brothers, while main stage festival appearances at Leeds and Reading took them to the offices of Warner Brothers in the States; Wichita retained their now lucrative UK contract.
A meeting of The CRIBS and FRANZ FERDINAND during their US support to DEATH CAB FOR CUTIE, led to Alex Kapranos producing the trio’s breakthrough third set, MEN’S NEEDS, WOMEN’S NEEDS, WHATEVER (2007) {*7}. Joined in session by SONIC YOUTH’s Lee Ranaldo, who contributed spoken-word parts on `Be Safe’, the group’s crunchy and catchy melodies had become more focused and less shambling. The difficulty was that now they sounded almost FRANZ FERDINAND-like in both scope and angular rhythm; hit singles `Men’s Needs’, `Moving Pictures’ and `Our Bovine Public’ (a double-header with the exclusive non-album `Don’t You Wanna Be Relevant?’), could only heighten musical links to MAXIMO PARK, The FUTUREHEADS and WEEZER.
A chance meeting with one of the guitar greats – at least in indie terms – JOHNNY MARR, led to rehearsals, several work-in-progress songs and some road-test live shows throughout 2008, with growing speculation that he’d actually joined the band. This was proved not to be some recurring April Fools’ day joke when he broke from his most recent stint at MODEST MOUSE to work with both CRIBS and producer Nick Launey. Although `Cheat On Me’ did not quite get off the mark chart-wise in a download-centric, recession-hit music business, the companion album – in more ways than one – IGNORE THE IGNORANT (2009) {*7} locked in a Top 10 place. Rather than stick all their eggs in one basket and attempt at regurgitating a pop hit in the mould of `Hey Scenesters!’, the unique indie-rock alliance fermented a brew of songs that might last more than a few plays, namely `We Were Aborted’, `City Of Bugs’, `Stick To Yr Guns’ and the title track.
After their inevitable honeymoon period was over in 2011, and a quickie but amiable divorce was settled on between the brothers and a solo-bound MARR, The CRIBS’s next venture would be crucial toward maintaining their long-earned stability. When Ryan split from girlfriend KATE NASH around the same time (causing a brief mental breakdown), coping and finding causes to carry on the band were indeed more important matters on their agenda. Shelved sessions with QUEEN producer Dave Richards, resulted in the call-up of two of the finest in the business: Dave Fridmann and Steve Albini, still heroes for a group still sucking the teet of other alt/indie masters from the States. Top 10 in Britain once again and bolstered by several flag-flying WEEZER-meets-PAVEMENT-like tracks, IN THE BELLY OF THE BRAZEN BULL (2012) {*8}, was just what the doctor ordered. `Come On, Be A No-One’, `Glitters Like Gold’, and the power-pop `Anna’ and `Jaded Youth’, sound-tracked a confident and fiery CRIBS set to again take on Britain and beyond; for live shows they’d added guitarist David Jones (of Manchester’s NINE BLACK ALPS).
2013’s PAYOLA {*6} rounded up all the band’s outtakes and B-sides (including covers of COMET GAIN’s `Saturday Night Facts Of Life’ and The REPLACEMENTS’ `Bastards Of Young’), and concluded their time at Wichita Recordings. In the meantime, Ryan and his new girlfriend Jen Turner (of Here We Go Magic) released a one-off single as Exclamation Pony: `Pseudo Individual’ (b/w `Mazes’), that September.
Inking a fresh global deal at Sony RED, The CRIBS were back in action and the Top 10 for 2015’s RIC OCASEK-produced FOR ALL MY SISTERS {*7}. Recorded in New York with the ex-CARS man, there was still further evidence that the writing Jarman brothers were yet to put to bed their derivative “slackers” style. Nevertheless, their simple manifesto of fist-pumping indie power ballads (`Burning For No One’, `Finally Free’, `Different Angle’ and `Mr. Wrong’) caught the ear and left one returning for repeat prescriptions over and over and over again.
In answer to some backlash received on the back of their previous “alt-pop” record, the trio turned in a stellar performance for the Top 10, 24-7 ROCK STAR SHIT (2017) {*7}. Sounding more early REPLACEMENTS than Wakefield’s answer to WEEZER, the reason was clear – legendary engineer Steve Albini was at the controls. Okay, some of the songs and ideas stemmed from the “Brazen Bull” sessions of 2012, but in the unshaven and unkempt `Give Good Time’, `Year Of Hate’, `Dendrophobia’, `Rainbow Bridge’ and `Partisan’, there was still room enough to rock (and roll) in the garage for The CRIBS.
© MC Strong/MCS Mar2015-Aug2017

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