In a sentence:
An artistic and emotional triumph, The Cribs’ eighth album ‘Night Network’ sees the brothers Jarman crafting melodic, bruised alternative rock as brilliantly as ever.
point in their career, there’s not much left for The Cribs to achieve,
neither in terms of commercial attainment nor the conquering of new creative
territory. Their status as one of Britain’s most treasured indie bands has been
undisputed for well over a decade, and their loyal cult following coalesced and
hardened long ago. Night Network, their eighth full-length, would on the
surface of it appear to be Just Another Cribs Album. However, the difficult
circumstances of its creation make it one of the Jarman brothers’ most
triumphant and defiant efforts to date.
MORE: “Never Exist Without Being Generic”
– A Beginner’s Guide to The Cribs
into an enforced hiatus as the result of a hellish legal dispute with their
former management regarding the rights to their back catalogue, the very future
of The Cribs was up in the air in the aftermath of 2017’s Steve Albini-assisted
24-7 Rock Star Sh*t. Effectively paralysed as an
economic unit, it was only the kind offer from Dave Grohl, whom the Wakefield
trio knew from supporting Foo Fighters, to record and self-produce some new
material at his studio in Los Angeles that got Night Network off the
ground in the first place.
they’ve produced is the most distinctively, classically Cribs-esque album since
2007’s Men’s Needs, Women’s Needs, Whatever, an album that many casual and
diehard fans have held up as their finest hour. Signalled by the streamlined,
Pixies-influenced indie-rock of lead single ‘Running Into You’, there’s plenty of moments of melodic
crossover potential and appeal but which remain firmly grounded in the Jarmans’
resolutely independent, Pacific North-western aesthetic. The scuffed guitars
and pounding drums of ‘Screaming In Suburbia’ and ‘She’s My Style’ recall their very earliest work, a pleasing sensation in the context of
a group that’s always jealously guarded its independent ethos from the
beginning. The slow crawl of ‘The Weather Speaks Your Name’ is reminiscent of Ignore The Ignorant’s ‘City
That’s not to say that The Cribs have given up on exploring new sonic
and emotional territory. Ryan Jarman’s vocals are pretty consistently higher in
register than ever before, almost hitting a sweet falsetto on ‘Running Into
You’. That makes the haunted, heartbroken surf-rock of opener ‘Goodbye’, an unexpected
curtain-raiser, work as well as it does, and also the gently understated ‘Earl & Duke’. Closing track ‘In The Neon Night’ ends
things on an exceptionally strong point, a squalling onslaught leading to
sci-fi weirdness and a rambunctious swinging beat.
scars from the Jarmans’ ordeal of the last three years are not so much worn on
their sleeves as hidden in plain view on Night Network. It’s there in
some of the track titles – ‘Never Thought I’d Feel Again’ and ‘I Don’t Know Who I Am’, for instance – speaking to a fear
of a loss of identity and autonomy. That latter song, by the way, notably
features the return of legendary Sonic Youth guitarist Lee Ranaldo as a guest
vocalist. It’s much more conventional in structure than his memorable turn on
‘Be Safe’ from Men’s Needs…, but his atonal guitar sprays nevertheless
underscore a terrific song.
the alienated position The Cribs were in, emotionally jaded and physically
prevented from plying their trade, it’s a minor miracle that Night Network exists
at all. That it’s as instantly classic as it is, ticking every box that a
long-time fan would expect yet stretching itself into new territory and trying
the odd unexpected approach, is incredibly heartening and beyond anything even
the most optimistic could have anticipated. (8/10) (Ed Biggs)
Listen to Night Network by The Cribs here via Spotify, and tell us what you think below!
Tags: Ed Biggs, Night Network, PIAS, Ryan Jarman, Sonic Blew, The Cribs
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