The first thing to say about The Crimea is that they are a much stronger and more interesting proposition than you would imagine were you to have only paid them passing attention before now. The skewed classic â€˜Lottery Winners On Acidâ€™ may have won your heart in 2002 and â€˜Baby Boomâ€™ was high in John Peelâ€™s Festive Fifty a couple of years back now, but that does little to prepare you for seeing them live.
The backing track of opening song â€˜Opposite Endsâ€™ starts up and one by one the band join in until the sound becomes a whirling storm of guitars, solemn harmonies and undulating notes with lead singer and main man Davey Macmanus testifying to the pain of love right up here before us. On a Tuesday evening in Chalk Farm. Literally spreading his arms with the force of his soul bearing, as if to say that if we want it, weâ€™re gonna get it all, and even if we donâ€™t, itâ€™s coming anyway.
There's nothing ground breaking about the Crimea, they donâ€™t forge new paths in sonic experimentation, they simply take the basic essence of life and use songwriting and passion to pass that message on to us. If it didnâ€™t sound so crap we would say something about this being art at its purest. But that might make all this sound a bit high, so probably best to stick to the songs; songs that have been crafted and worked upon over time until becoming little "pocket symphonies", according to drummer and founder member Owen Hopkins, referring to Brian Wilsonâ€™s term to describe the best of the Beach Boys sound. Songs that for the most part tread the regular ground of love and loss, but which are littered with the most wonderful couplets and snippets of insight which convey, if not a message of hope, then at least a wink and a shrug and a cup of tea.
And this is to say nothing of Macmanus whoâ€™s wide eyed and frantic stream of consciousness performance for some reason reminded me of those recently re-viewed Bob Dylan gigs, and the later songs in the set reminiscent of Leonard Cohen. High praise indeed. â€˜It ainâ€™t easy being weirdâ€™, Macmanus deadpans at one point in the night. We can imagine.