Back in the summer of 2010, The Cribs bassist Gary Jarman told us about demos for their ‘new album’. Not to go too in-depth, but the words “keyboards” and “studio as instrument” were bandied about in a manner unbefitting Britain’s biggest garage rock band. Soon after arrived the single ‘Housewife’ – a sparse, synthesizer dirge that left most scratching their heads. In the years since a lot about that proposed ‘new album’ has changed. Scrapped sessions with Edwyn Collins and David Richards, as well as the departure of elder statesmen Johnny Marr has seen the Jarman brothers going back to basics. Thankfully, what’s emerged from this tension is their heaviest and best record to date.
As its title suggests, In The Belly Of The Brazen Bull is a long, dark and visceral album. From opening track ‘Glitters Like Gold’ a certain tone is established. Loud, spacious and awash with self-loathing, it has all the touchstones of its two producers – Steve Albini (In Utero and too many to mention) and Dave Fridmann (Weezer’s whine-fest Pinkerton). Always indebted to the US, but inescapably English, the Wakefield trio now find themselves in grungier territory than their accents (or perhaps Johnny Marr) would allow. Throughout we hear guitars reach paint stripping levels as the band bash through tales of identity crisis, loss and betrayal. The best of these comes in the form of ‘Come On, Be A No-One’ and ‘Back To The Bolthole’. The former is a larynx-shredding paean to the mis-shapes of outsiderdom, while ‘…Bolthole’ is a twisted epic that even finds room for those two-year-old keyboards.
What’s more impressive is the Cribs also come good on that once suspect ‘studio as instrument’ line. An ambitious closing suite of four melded songs sees them oddly tip their hat to the Beatles Abbey Road (coincidentally the location for much of this recording). For this, they rattle through an all together more optimistic and breezy set of songs that finishes with the self-deprecating ‘Arena Rock Encore with Full Cast’. As much writing an apology for the wait between last record Ignore The Ignorant, a chorus of ‘sorry that it’s taken years, we were victims of our own ideals’ is bellowed out with unbridled bombast. It’s alright, we forgive them.