TVD Live: The Cribs
at the Black Cat, 6/7

It’s not easy being a Britpop band in 2012, at a time when the Gallagher brothers have embarked on their seperate, unspectacular side projects and when the announcement of a new Bloc Party album is greeted with a wave of nostalgia for the glory days of British alternative.

But while other dandies from across the pond burnt out or faded into obscurity, Yorkshire garage-rock threesome, The Cribs have managed to navigate the late ’00s quite well, releasing albums every few years and even enlisting legendary Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr among their ranks.

The Cribs stopped by the Black Cat on June 7, touring in support of their fifth album, In the Belly of the Brazen Bull. As is the case with any once-hip band looking to progress after their niche grows stale (see: the Futureheads, Maximo Park, the Pigeon Detectives), The Cribs’ new material produced by Steve Albini, showcases a harder and more mature sound. Regardless of the big-name and grown-up production of their latest record, a modest group of rowdy fans who gathered at the Black Cat Thursday night were treated to an unpolished, yet snappy vintage Cribs performance.

The band looked just as we’d expected them to; long-haired twentysomethings clad in jeans and screen tees and sporting nearly unintelligible accents. Opening with new song “Chi-Town,” The Cribs whipped out their old hits early in the set to the excitement of the crowd. With call and response lyrics and huge shoutalong choruses, the band’s earlier material riled up the crowd and worked the band into their comfort zone. The band’s sound was far from polished, as twin brothers Gary and Ryan Jarman traded wailing vocal turns and powered through sloppy guitar solos, punctuated by goofy, heavily accented stage banter.

“You guys want us to go old school, don’t you?” Ryan quipped, to an enthusiastic cheer from the crowd, and old-school they went, faithfully bounding through old hits like “I’m a Realist” and “Men’s Needs,” the latter proving to be the audience’s favorite of the night. That isn’t to say the muscular riffs, darker harmonies, and harder-driving percission of the Cribs’ new material weren’t captivating; the lack of playful charm just wasn’t quite as fun in a live setting, as the plethora of fist pumps during 2005 hit “Hey Scenesters” attested. Additionally, the poor sound mixing of the night fit fine with the group’s ramshackle early hits, but did a definite disservice to the nuances in the Brazen Bull material.

The Cribs have stopped screaming to the scenesters and sharpened the edge that set them apart from the Britpoppers that have long since faded into the mid-00s haze. Even fans disappointed with The Cribs’ performance can’t deny the excellence of highlight “Mirror Kissers,” a throwback single that distilled everything The Cribs did best into three and a half minutes of messy, soaring hooks with the two lead blokes’ walling harmonies to the ecstatic crowd, complete with a wordless bridge that drove the crowd up the walls.

Sure, The Cribs aren’t hip anymore, and while it’s tempting to chalk them up as a 2006 throwback, how many young British alt-rock bands from back in the day are still on the road, let alone recruiting top-of-the-line producers to refine their sound? Chalk it up to the group’s talent and perseverance—and the pure enjoyment factor of shouting a chorus phoenetically because you can’t understand a word through the accents, all over a few deftly wielded power chords.

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