Of the several plaques embedded in the sidewalk in Wakefield, England, to honor the city's hometown heroes, one is devoted to the Cribs, a rock band founded more than 10 years ago by three brothers, Gary, Ryan and Ross Jarman. The music department at the school they attended is also named after them, and the local paper once called them “Wakefield's greatest ambassadors.”
“The city's really proud of us,” says Gary, the band's singer and bassist. “It's pretty insane. I used to hate Wakefield growing up because it was such a difficult place to be a punk rocker. It's a very working-class area, so we would take a lot of stick.”
Of the three brothers, only Ross remains in Wakefield. Gary lives in Portland, Oregon, and Ryan's most recent home was London.
They first performed together at a family New Year's Eve Party in 1989 -- Ross was only 5, and they covered Queen songs -- but officially became The Cribs in 2001. The band’s self-titled debut, released in 2004, was championed for judiciously converging perky pop hooks and tangled, lo-fi snarl. The songs brimmed with youthful rebellion and snark, and the Cribs earned a reputation for being troublemakers.
“Here's a story no one knows,” says Gary. “When we were on the first album campaign -- and very young, unhinged, and bratty -- we played a festival in Belgium. And, while Velvet Revolver were onstage, we snuck into [the ex-Guns N' Roses guitar player] Slash's dressing room and pissed in his milk. Terrible.”
The band has significantly matured since those early days, assures Gary, and the proof lies in its new music. "In The Belly Of The Brazen Bull," the Cribs' fifth album, was released last month on Wichita Recordings, and it's their best work so far.
“We used to get most of our inspiration from frustration, and so a lot of the songs reflected that,” explains Gary. “But the new one is a lot prettier. I think this record isn't rowdy at all outside of the singles, which are always the snappiest, catchiest songs we have. We always try to react against the previous record.”
"In The Belly Of The Brazen Bull" is packed with fist-pumping anthems like “Glitters Like Gold” and “Come On, Be A No-One” that recall early-Weezer and the Strokes, but songs such as “I Should Have Helped” and “Like A Gift Giver” capture the band's more introspective and tender pop turn.
Produced by Dave Fridmann (who has worked with Mercury Rev, The Flaming Lips, Sleater-Kinney and Mogwai) and engineered by Steve Albini (the Big Black and Shellac guitarist who has worked on albums by Nirvana, the Pixies, PJ Harvey and the Jesus Lizard), the album was recorded with a powerhouse studio team. It's also the Cribs' first album since the departure of Johnny Marr, the former Smiths and Modest Mouse guitarist who contributed to the band's last album, "Ignore The Ignorant."
“I think Johnny's absence was a key factor in our productivity -- in a way, it motivated us to work,” says Gary. “We turned a potential negative into a positive, I suppose. In some ways it was like starting afresh, as we had that initial excitement again to be back as just the three of us. It just felt like going back to normal, really.”
Elliott Sharp wants you to follow him on Twitter @elliottsharp.
- Royal Headache: Untamed Australians
- Something Fierce Don't Do Love Songs
- Red Bull Soundstage Memorial Day Playlist