After the brief addition of ex-The Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr to the band on their last album,the Jarman brothers of The Cribs are back, minus Marr, with their fifth album, In the Belly of the Brazen Bull.
The record sees the trio explore a much more gritty sound. For the most part, the memorable, pop-inspired guitar riffs of songs like “Men’s Needs” are gone; replaced with a wall of distorted guitar similar to what you might hear from alt-rock bands of the early 90’s. This may have been a creative decision to give the album a more lo-fi feel, but the lack of a second guitarist seems to really stick out throughout the record. Lyrically, the album is more personal. This comes out on tracks like “I Should Have Helped” and tied tracks “Like a Gift Giver” and “Butterflies”. Ryan’s delivery is sincere and at times surprisingly delicate.
The change in direction on this album is a bit of a shock, but once you remove the up-beat indie-pop image you may have of the band, you can appreciate this grungy, lo-fi offering a whole lot more.
I spoke to Hugo White of The Maccabees last month. Here’s the transcript from my interview in Reverb Magazine.
So where in the world are you speaking to me from?
I’m in Liverpool in the UK. We’re in the middle of a tour at the moment so we’re having a day off.
What have you guys been up to today?
Well we’ve actually been rehearsing so it’s not as much as a day off as I’d like but we’re on a pretty busy schedule at the moment but nothing to complain about so…
I heard you recently had a birthday am I right?
(Laughs) Yeah yeah, I did.
How’d you spend that?
Playing a gig. We were lucky to play in the place where we spent a lot of time and lived in Brighton for a while so we actually got to play a show there, which was quite nice. Had a lot of friends and stuff come.
You’re obviously playing tracks from your new record on your current tour, what’s it like playing those big atmospheric tracks live?
It’s great actually. For this tour the majority of songs we’re playing are from the new record. It’s a pretty amazing thing, the new songs seem to be going down as well as any of the old songs. They already feel as though the songs belong to the crowd which is really nice. We’re really happy about how its all sounding and we’re really happy about the record and the songs so it’s a total treat to be able to play them all.
You’re playing indoor venues on your UK tour, have you played the tracks at festivals? Do they take better to being outside?
We haven’t played any festivals yet but it definitely feels like that. You know, because they’re much bigger songs. Even when we were writing some of the songs, we were setting the mood that you were outdoors in the dark at a festival creating that sort of atmosphere. I think it’s going to be well suited to festivals.
Given to the Wild is pretty different to your earlier releases, what is it that inspired you to get the almost stadium sound of this record?
We never really said to ourselves that we were going to make a stadium sounding record. It is more the result of an effort to keep evolving as a band and to push ideas and the way we were writing songs with the real intention to make it move forward from the last record. I think that just a natural thing with the band, we want to be a band that progresses and changes. I guess that’s something that’s always in our heads when we set out to make a record.
What artists and bands influenced you while you were writing for the record?
It’s difficult because all of us listen to very different things. I think with this record more than any there wasn’t any bands or people that we listened to that we all agreed were our favourite thing. So there’s a lot of different influences going on and I think that makes the record sound how it does because you get different sounds through each person and everyone’s personality in the band kind of shines through on each song. You get kind of this collaborative thing which hopefully ends up sounding like its own thing rather than anything else. But for me I was listening to a lot of Tom Petty quite recently so, stuff like that I suppose.
You guys have been compared to big stadium bands like Arcade Fire and Kings of Leon, do you agree with those comparisons?
Ummmm, no, Not really. (laughs) It’s difficult because it makes it easy to say something sounds like something else and it’s the easy way of describing something. Especially with this record, we didn’t set out to make it like any of those so hopefully it doesn’t. But in saying that, we love those bands so that’s not a problem.
More focus on sounding like yourself.
(laughs) Yeah. I suppose that’s what everyone wants really.
It’s probably the best way to go about it.
Yeah. You’ve got to aim high haven’t you (laughs)
Pelican has been getting a lot of airplay in Australia through Triple J…
Oh really? That’s brilliant!
Yeah. It’s probably least like the other songs on the album though. It’s more straight up rock. Are you surprised it’s so popular over other tracks?
Well in the UK that was the first single from the record. It is quite obvious that its that song that’s the most direct and instant. We love that song but in terms of it reflecting on the record, we never thought it was a song that sums up the record because it is quite different from other stuff on the record. We saw it as a good way of introducing people to us. Once you kinda got that you could spend a bit more time listening and getting into some of the slower paced songs or the songs that require a bit more time.
Yeah, because it’s the first time many people in Australia would have heard of you guys but you’ve been touring around the UK and Europe for a number of years now right?
Yeah yeah, I know. We’ve been touring for a long time so it does make it even more exciting to be coming to Australia now. It’s something that we’ve always wanted to do but it doesn’t always work out that way. It’s not that easy to get to Australia. We were really excited when we found out we were coming. None of us have ever been to Australia before so it’s a big trip for us.
You’ve got a good mix of regional and metropolitan shows so you should see a fair bit of the country in the short time you’re here.
Yeah, that’s exciting as well. I hear we’re going to be doing a lot of flying.
Do you prefer doing regional or metropolitan dates we you’re doing your touring in the UK and Europe?
It depends really. We tend to just have fun adapting to situations and trying to make the most of everything really. It’s hard to have a favourite.
Groovin’ the Moo has had a bit of wet weather the past few years, but you guys have played Reeding and Leeds and UK festivals so you guys should feel at home.
(laughs) Yeah yeah. I’m told the weather is going to be pretty good but I’m not sure really.
Are you going to be bringing the electronic elements of the new record down here?
Yeah they are. We wrote that album as a studio thing. We weren’t playing the songs live we just made it to be an album. Doing it live was really, working it all out. We’ve actually got another member who’s is mine and Felix’s other brother so there’s three brothers in the band now. He’s been playing a lot of the sounds on the record that aren’t coming from the guitars and from us so we’ve got the whole works going on. He’s playing synths and triggers. It definitely adds to it, it’s a much bigger thing these songs live.
It should sound really great.
Yeah it does. This tour we’re on at the moment in the UK has been absolutely incredible. It’s like, the crowds are getting so good now for us and it’s so much fun playing these songs. It feels like we could do this for a while, you know, we’re quite happy.
Have you guys got any token Australian activities planned for when you guys are down here?
Yeah, koala’s will be cool! Our younger brother who’s playing keys is the only one who’s been to Australia before and his picture on his Facebook profile is actually him holding a koala and I have to do that. So maybe we’ll get to see some koalas.
When a multiple Grammy Award winning artist collaborates with one of the industries most creative producers you know the results are going to be good. Co-written and produced by Danger Mouse aka Brian Burton, Norah Jones’ fifth studio album, Little Broken Hearts is dark, moody and doesn’t disappoint.
Burton’s influence is clear from the opening track, “Good Morning”. A four note piano riff jars against an acoustic guitar while Jones sweetly contemplates leaving her lover. A tinkling piano melody mimics her voice as deep strings fade in and out. The competing parts create an unusual rhythm and a far less conventional track than one might expect from Jones.
Jones’ time performing in country three-piece The Little Willies has also had an influence on her music. The country influence can be heard on lonesome love songs “She’s 22”, “Out on the Road” and the title track.
There’s also plenty of tracks with a more distinct Jones sound. “Take It Back” and album highlight “Miriam” all have that velvety smooth, New York after dark kind of vibe heard on previous Jones releases.
Little Broken Hearts sees Jones perfectly marry the sounds of her birthplace, Brooklyn, and her childhood home state, Texas. Despite the range of influences on the album, the record strings together easily thanks to Jones’ sultry smooth and effortless delivery.