More about: The Cribs
Uncertainty is very much a feeling that 2020 has amplified. Night Network too, the eighth studio album from The Cribs, was born out of uncertainty; legal battles and managerial splits left the Jarman brothers without a clear path for the future. In the end, if it wasn’t for the intervention of Dave Grohl and his recording space, we might not have had an album to talk about at all. And thank god we do, for on Night Network, the trio have found a way through the darkness, have burst through the chrysalis and emerged reborn.
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The album doesn’t dwell too long on the band’s troubles - opener ‘Goodbye’ shakes them off with in a harmony-drenched serenade that Brian Wilson would be proud of. Contrary to how they’ve previously opened albums, with boisterous and sharp tracks such as ‘Hey Scenesters!’ and ‘Our Bovine Public’, ‘Goodbye’ acts as more of a prologue; setting the scene, establishing the mood before peppy lead single ‘Running Into You’, a slice of classic Cribs, crash-lands with aplomb. In tearing up their own rulebook, what we have is The Cribs liberating themselves with the widest of smiles - and you’re invited to the party.
If their previous outing 24-7 Rock Star Shit was their ‘grunge’ album, Night Network is their ‘soul’ album. ‘Never Thought I’d Feel Again’ and ‘Deep Infatuation’ are two samples of what the band have christened “Wakefield Motown”- both are floor-fillers with embellishments of confidence unseen before. In a time when the term “landfill indie” has been passed around ad nauseum, The Cribs still protest the phrase with their mere existence - they’re the poster children for the creatives who refuse to stagnate.
Night Network sees the band at their most mature and reflective yet, though it never gets too morose or self-indulgent. Take ‘Screaming In Suburbia’ for example - an examination of adulthood, coupled with a meticulously crafted hook and guitarist Ryan’s Pavement-indebted shredding blossoming throughout it. They’re “still the same kids”, but now “the baby just won’t shut up”- while there’s still time for leather jacket love songs, the sustenance of relationships and responsibility takes stronghold here. It’s hard not to see the hypnotic ‘Earl and Duke’ as an ode to the enduring familial bond they have crafted (“you are my boy and I’m your duke”). And ‘I Don’t Know Who I Am’, fronted by shoegaze guitars and bassist Gary’s melancholic falsetto, is a deeply vulnerable howl into that painfully familiar void of holding onto an identity that grows less and less stable as you keep on growing up.
Regarding Night Network, the words ‘magnum’ and ‘opus’ come to mind. From the choppy and contagious pop of ‘She’s My Style’ and the exquisitely homesick ‘The Weather Speaks Your Name’, to the band embracing their cinematic and picturesque potential on album highlight ‘Siren Sing-Along’, the record is relentlessly impressive, constantly revealing new tricks until the end. Curtain call ‘In the Neon Night’ perhaps sums everything up impeccably. The spry and sagacious chords have the spirit of The Beatles’ Revolver surging through them, and Ryan’s vocals are urgent and optimistic, joyfully belting out the lyrics as if every breath is the most vital in the world.
Night Network begins with The Cribs gently waving “goodbye” to their year of turmoil, and ends with victorious cries of “good riddance”, that turmoil now merely a passing memory. And with the album falling on a month where the world has stepped up in yelling “good riddance” to bad rubbish, there couldn’t be a more fitting soundtrack. Welcome back lads. You may have saved 2020.
Night Network arrives 20 November via PIAS.
More about: The Cribs