The Cribs saved my 2020 with their Eighth Record Night Network
Three years have passed since The Cribs’ last record 24-7 Rockstar Shit back in 2017, and I feel it. In the midst of lockdown in 2020 and the lack of live music, a new Cribs record was one of the only ways to truly lift my spirits and save 2020. After the announcement of Night Network earlier on in the year I knew it would become a highlight, a cornerstone in a very bleak year.
On the run up to the release of the record, the trio of brothers released a trio of tracks; ‘Running Into You’, ‘I Don’t Know Who I Am’ and finally ‘Never Thought I’d Feel Again’ – they also had radio play for ‘Siren Sing-Along’ on the week of release. With these tracks being pushed out into the ether, it promised another solid album from the Jarman brothers, not that it was ever in doubt. Throughout all of their albums, it never feels like the band has compromised on their sound or what they want to do. So, you know at the very least, you’re getting something completely real. I’ll discuss these tracks later on in the review, just wanted to provide a snapshot of the build up to the release of the album.
Friday 20th November 2020 saw the release of Night Network, the eight record from the boys, an incredible feat for a band birthed in the early 00’s. Many bands from around that era haven’t been able to stick together, but with three brothers I guess it runs deeper than music. They open with what I’d argue as the best opener from any Cribs record with ‘Goodbye’. This seems to act as a goodbye to the past, after the band had been dropped from their long-term management, and potentially could have lost a lot of rights to their early music. It may not have been, but to me at least it felt like a closing of a chapter. The song is understatedly beautiful, Gary’s vocals are magical, as they often are, the simple harmonies and “babababa’s” are too enticing not to join in. Could easily see this becoming one of my favourite tracks from the lads.
Once the opener closes, it felt like the gloves were off and the chains had been removed. We’re thrown into ‘Running Into You’ which was released prior to the album. Off the record I’d say this is the most stereotypical Cribs song including; the squealing guitar riff on the chorus, the gunshot drums and Gary’s high-pitched vocal delivery. I loved it then, and I love it even more now within the context of the album. One thing The Cribs have, and will always have, is the ability to write a memorable and punchy chorus. It’s what initially drew me to them along with their delivery of it, and in any of their albums it’s littered with these wonderous choruses. ‘Screaming in Suburbia’ and ‘Never Thought I’d Feel Again’ are both blessed with these choruses. On an emotional side note, the chorus in ‘Never Thought I’d Feel Again’ has a real nostalgic feel to it, the lyrics; “Casting of a spell that you can’t undo now / Baby, I don’t know if I’ve thought this through now / Maybe it’s too much to ask of you?” seem to hit differently with the way Gary sings it.
The album then takes a dip in tempo with ‘Deep Infatuation’ and ‘I Don’t know who I am, with the latter featuring cult-hero Lee Ranaldo. ‘Deep Infatuation’ showcases classic Cribs hooks, along with a very raw and honest vocal performance from Ryan.
But it’s ‘I Don’t Know Who I Am’ which sticks out as a stone-cold gem on the record. Upon it’s release before the album it didn’t strike me straight away how luminous it was. Often the best songs are growers, and this certainly was. As it followed ‘Deep Infatuation’ it felt like the lights went down, Ryan’s guitar turned into this magical ever-present sound surrounding the room and Ross’s drums became a pounding heart. The lyrics on this are probably some of the best the bands produced, and that’s where the real gold is on the track. Singing along with it, you feel the words as they all slot into place. The chorus pulls on the heart, vocals from both Lee and Gary delivering the line; “You wouldn’t love me/ Keep out of my way, I’m not in your way”, putting the song in the top tier along with ‘We Share The Same Skies’, ‘Be Safe’, and many others.
After the long wonders of the ‘I Don’t Know Who I Am’, we’re straight back into the chaos of ‘She’s My Style’, a riff heavy track with a beautifully jagged song structure and I love the line; “Keep bringing her her favourite flowers / Even though they’re gone after a couple of hours” there’s something simplistically great about it. ‘Under The Bus Station Clock’ is probably the most underrated track on the album, really feel this could’ve been a single. Coming in under three minutes it has some old school cribs tendencies, which is why I have such an affection for it.
‘Siren Sing-Along’ got a bit of radio play prior to the album release, which I’d argue is probably the poppiest on the album. With its bright and shiny opening, its easy to fall for the track immediately. “Is this something real or just a feel-good drug? / Don’t overthink it won’t do no good”, the line my better half will probably get sick of my singing by the end of year, it’s that catchy. It reminds me of the hook from Dusty Springfield’s ‘I Only Want to be With You’ in places, which is a cover I would love to hear. ‘Earl and Duke’ is a nice release after some faster paced tracks, listening Gary’s lullaby’s will never get tired and this track is a great advert for that. No chorus is required on this, which is something the boys don’t often do, yet it works perfectly with the repetitive guitar as Gary tell the tale of two brothers.
As always with a Cribs record it ends to soon, but on a high note with the memorable ‘In the Neon Night’ which opens with these erratic whistles and guitar sound you wouldn’t tie to The Cribs, and Ryan then bursts into song. This probably has the best melody on the record personally and it has a classic R.Jarman riff, but they have this knack of using their style but in a completely different way. For instance, if you asked me to put this song on another Cribs record I couldn’t, it wouldn’t fit anywhere sound-wise, but there is that familiarity there.
After listening to it consistently since its release it’s safe to say I fallen in love with the record. More interestingly however, it’s probably their best record in the last 10 years. Not to say the albums from the last 10 years have been bad, they haven’t, they’ve provided some The Cribs’ best music – but Night Network is just that strong. There are songs on here which will be part of the setlist for years, which is becoming crammed now because of host of riches the band can choose from. Songs like ‘I Don’t Know Who I Am’, ‘Goodbye’ and ‘Never Thought I’d Feel Again’ have become personal favourites of mine, and as time goes on, like on any other Cribs record, I’ll become engrossed with the rest. For people who have never been into The Cribs or who have admired them from afar but never dived in, I can see this record as being one you can certainly enjoy and potentially be a bit of a gateway into falling for the band further.
2020 has officially saved in my eyes by the Wakefield trio, and I’ll be eternally grateful for them and their music. So for the rest of the year, the album will receive plenty of repeats as I toast to another fantastic instalment to the Jarman music portfolio.
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