If you’re a dad or mum (but mostly likely a dad – mums usually have better things to do with precious minutes of free time than work through a whole Cribs album identifying a matching Smiths track or jangle on a bar by bar basis) who pre-parenthood devoted a lot of time to John Peel, Mojo, 6Music or Pitchfork, you might have drifted away a little from the kind of jump-in-the-air-and-punch-your-fist excitement that comes with hearing a song that, for three or four minutes, is the most important thing in the universe, in fact IS its own universe and momentarily lets you live there.* Fear not – every now and then, I’m here to try and remind you what exactly that feels like. Don’t thank me – just bugger off and listen to the songs then come back and tell me what you think.
The Big Pink – “A Brief History of Love”. This album may or may not pick up a lot of hype. The territory – a kind of chilly Indy electronica noir with guitars – is already well staked out from a number of angles (most notably the painstakingly constructed filligree of Massive Attack’s Mezzanine, the doom metal guitar of Portishead’s Third or the Knife or Fever Ray) but The Big Pink bring a more sensual aesthetic to bear. We’re deep in the heart of an almost documentary process here, disentangling (disenterring?) an affair and it’s aftermath, it’s highs and lows. These are surprizingly big, anthemic songs at times. ‘Love In Vein’ wouldn’t sound out of place on the Verve’s only true masterpiece, History.
Perhaps their true peers, outbreaks of heavy riffarama as on Crystal Visions aside, are the likes of Spanish electro melodic house classicists like Delorean. Or maybe it’s just a noughties trip hop revival. Or maybe it’s just a powerful rock album with a lot of programmer beats and some great tunes. Actually, the one I’m listening to a the moment sounds like a straight Pet Shop Boys (“These girls fall like dominoes/dominoes/dominoes”) Whatever, I’m playing it a lot and finding something new each time.
The Cribs – ‘Ignore The Ignorant’. This, however, is nothing new at all on the face of it. The first Cribs album did very little for me. They sounded like a junior version of the Strokes – all acute angles, gruff voices and riffs too tightly wound to really hook the listener. The songs seemed like standard Brit XFM fodder with little to make them stand out from any other gang of punky wannabes. Something happened over the last couple of years, though. They got better. They wrote some top songs. And somehow they recruited Johnnu Marr, Smiths Johnny Marr, the greatest – the only true- guitar hero of his generation and they made not a great but a seriously good record. Part of the charm is playing spot the Smiths lift (I could do a track by track but I’ll spare you) but if anyone has earned the right to rip himself off, it’s Marr. And, presented with an album of tough, tight little songs shimmering with the Marr fairy dust, it’s hardly surprising that I haven’t listened to much else over the last few days.
Steve Wynne, “When You Smile”, The Kitting Factory, 12-06-2003. A live mp3 from a show pulled down from the peerless Internet Music Archive. It’s a version with a little more slink to it than the more raucous Dream Syndicate original but it still generates a kind of grindingly menacing, bluesy ennui. A kind of Velvets play Street hassle vibe.
*Isn’t it nice to know that there’s also a place for really long sentences?**
**Yes, my footnotes play shameless and awestruck homage to the genius of the late David Foster Wallace.