The Student Playlist

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“Never Exist Without Being Generic” – A Beginner’s Guide to The Cribs

Once described by Q magazine as “the biggest cult band in the UK”, there’s something comfortingly authentic about The Cribs‘ career trajectory over the nearly two decades since their formation. Jobbing it round the nation’s toilet circuits year after year from their formation and building up their fanbase with records that improved as time went on, the Jarman brothers’ path to critical and commercial success is an increasingly rare one in 2016, a throwback to a pre-digital age. Consisting of twins Ryan (vocals, guitar) and Gary (bass, vocals) and their younger brother Ross (drums), the brothers established The Cribs in 2001, having performed together even further back than that as kids at family parties. They quickly established their idiom, blending classic British rock influences with more esoteric American ones.

Indeed, a great deal of their music, although it is incredibly easy to sing along to, is reminiscent of Pacific North-Western underground, DIY punk more than anything else, notwithstanding their initial bracketing with boisterous mid-Noughties British contemporaries such as Kaiser Chiefs and The Libertines. Growing up in Wakefield admiring the likes of Bikini Kill, Sonic Youth and The Replacements as well as British indie favourites like Orange Juice gave the Jarmans’ music an ethos that has caused it to outlast the music made many of their counterparts. Their loud but melodic style, paradoxically both abrasive and tender at the same time, was able to make sense in the mainstream but also be subversive of it.

Following their modest 2004 self-titled debut album, released on stalwart indie label Wichita, The Cribs survived the fall-out in the late-Noughties when a lot of similar post-Libertines, garage rock-styled British bands generally regarded as indie landfill went to the wall. This was partly a result of their unbelievable work ethic and sensitivity to their devoted fanbase, but primarily it was down to a miniature army of awesome tunes that got better with each passing album as they honed and polished their technique. 2005’s The New Fellas and 2007’s Men’s Needs, Women’s Needs, Whatever rank as two of the finest British guitar albums of the decade, with singles like ‘Hey Scenesters!’ and ‘Men’s Needs’ still indie disco favourites nearly 15 years later.

Music video for ‘Men’s Needs’

Arguably the apex of their commercial visibility came with 2009’s Ignore The Ignorant, on which former Smiths guitarist and all-round indie hero Johnny Marr joined the Jarmans. Impressively hitting the UK Top Ten in a week where Beatles re-issues swept aside most of everything else, and accompanied by a successful UK tour, The Cribs were standing on the brink of true mainstream success. After only one album, Marr then left the group as they reverted to a three-piece for the more ambitious and challenging In The Belly Of The Brazen Bull in 2012. Although it also entered the Top Ten, it was an exercise in emphasising their influences and ethics over commercial considerations, assuring their loyal fans they were the same band they always were but arguably alienating newly acquired, possibly more casual fans.

Since then, the brothers Jarman have essentially been buttressing and reinforcing their reputation, showing with 2015’s loud, accessible For All My Sisters and then 2017’s crushing, Steve Albini-produced 24-7 Rock Star Sh*t that there are many seemingly contradictory aspects to their nevertheless coherent identity. They’re able to keep moving forward, yet are able to do backward-looking nostalgia specials – the 2007 and 2013 Cribsmas gigs, to name just a couple. They recognise their origins, even as they continue to venture further away from them, and consequently their back catalogue feels alive and relevant, the oldest material still as vital to the whole body of work as the newest. The nature of their early material has always seen them unfairly labelled as ‘cocky’, ‘swaggering’ or ‘brash’. The truth is, beneath the crowd-friendly singalongs and ‘woah-oh-oh-ohs’ of their early days, their sound has always been more indebted to the North-Western American punk scene of the early Nineties. In 2020, they’re one of the few remaining torch-bearers left in a guitar music scene increasingly dominated by say-nothing careerists.

Check out our playlist of The Cribs’ finest moments here via Spotify, and our overview of their seven studio albums (to date) by clicking through to the next page.

Happy listening!

Influenced: The Joy Formidable, Pulled Apart By Horses, Yuck, Little Comets, Palma Violets, Circa Waves, Wolf Alice, Blaenavon, Dream Wife, Menace Beach, Drahla, Shame, The Magic Gang, Sports Team

Influenced by: Orange Juice, R.E.M., Sonic Youth, The Replacements, The Smiths, Beat Happening, Pixies, Superchunk, Nirvana, Bikini Kill, Sleater-Kinney, The Lemonheads, Comet Gain, Weezer, Modest Mouse, Supergrass, Idlewild, The Strokes

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