The Cribs - Ignore The Ignorant
Fourth album from The Cribs and it’s fair to say that, thus far, I’ve managed to resist their elusive charms, finding them no more compelling than Kaiser Chiefs or whoever else has been representing ‘indie’ on the Now compilation albums. However, at the risk of sounding all Marks & Spencer, this isn’t just a Cribs album, this has added Johnny Marr. Not that this is a guarantee of anything special as Marr’s career has been marred by some dreadful dalliances with all sorts of undeserving mistresses. Let’s just get him out of the way shall we? Ignore the Ignorant sees Marr as inventive as ever, albeit clearly more restrained than in the Smiths. Subtlety seems a good move when his distinctive, iconic chiming sound could have easily dominated proceedings. He doesn’t have the weight of expectation on his shoulders here and appears to relish the discipline of being part of a cohesive band rather than bearing the pressure of crafting the next iconic riff for Morrissey to wilt over. The closest the album drifts to that classic Smiths jangle is on the wistful, reflective Last Year's Snow. He's been a long while in the wilderness but finally Johnny seems to have found a home.
The Cribs haven’t just recruited a big name guitarist, they’ve also snared a heavyweight producer and, hell, he’s made possibly even more of an impact than Marr. Nick Launay, for it is he, has worked with the royalty of the US college rock scene and his experience, coupled with Marr’s encyclopaedic knowledge of rock and pop history, has enabled the Cribs to deliver a classic, timeless rock album. The guitar is the star of the album but it is as much Ryan Jarman’s crunching riffs that grab the attention as Marr’s lyrical flourishes. The album opens with the feisty We Were Aborted which performs a smash and grab raid on the Pistols ‘Pretty Vacant’ but we don’t care. Indeed there’s nothing particularly earth shattering going on just yet. New single Cheat on Me arrives laden with hooks and manages to somehow resemble an unlikely Cobain/Charlatans collaboration, featuring a throat shredding chorus backed by a glisteningly low key Rickenbacker jangle which announces Marr's arrival in the band. We Share The Same Skies is more classic indie disco fodder with a huge chorus. As I say, all very entertaining but, really, nothing that sets them too far apart from peers such as the Kaiser Chiefs or Franz.
Nothing until we reach City of Bugs that is. This is where things start to get interesting. The song combines a sleazy Iggy style flat vocal with some glacial post punk bass and guitar lines and even manages to reference the Berlin Wall for additional 70’s rock credibility. The production is sublime and the result is astounding. All this good work is nearly undone however by the lightweight, Franz lite funk of Hari Kari which sits uneasily next to the monolithic City of Bugs and just seems to be a case of treading water. Thankfully the Jarmans are merely toying with us and the gorgeous Last Year's Snow dispels any lingering doubts , allowing Marr free reign to sprinkle his magic pixie dust over an already powerful song. This sets the album up nicely for Ignore the Ignorant, a centrepiece which was reputedly inspired by the rise of the BNP in Lancashire and which cheekily steals rather blatantly from the Smiths’ Panic.
The album returns to some dark, crunching guitar work in Nothing before returning us to the student disco with the tongue in cheek Victim of Mass Production which tips a nod to the Kinks’ Dedicated Follower... and will surely see light of day as a future single due to its floorfilling potential. Stick to Your Guns closes the album with some more classic New York sounds, this time allowing Gary Jarman the opportunity to do his best Transformer era Lou Reed impression. Again, it may not be wholly original but sounds immense. This album is a revelation, an epiphany and, while we are on the Christian metaphors, I’ll stick my neck out and say that, in terms of mainstream indie, this is creeping up there to sit in close proximity to The Holy Bible. I had no expectations of this album, my faith was waning in Marr and my relationship with the Cribs had never progressed past first base so it overjoys me to say that this is bleeding brilliant. A knife, a fork, a bottle and a cork, that’s the way we spell Wakefield.