Track by Track: The Cribs Fanzine on Night Network | Feature

The Cribs Night Network Visual
Cover artwork: unused Night Network visual, Photo by Steve Gullick, designed by Nick Scott for Narcsville.

The Cribs Fanzine faithfuls break down Night Network track by track

1. ‘Goodbye’, written by Alexander Edwards:

Is this a trick? Is this really the opening track from an eighth studio album by The Cribs? Upon a first listen, ‘Goodbye’ appears a strange choice as the opening song…

Ethereal in sound, ‘Goodbye’ is actually the perfect choice to kick-off Night Network. A literal “goodbye” to previous labels and management after a bitter legal battle for their back catalogue rights, it feels like the album could only start here. Drawing a line under a long three years away from the general public, with some not-so-subtle nods towards said label and management, ‘Goodbye’ appears in stark contrast to opening tracks on their previous albums.

There could almost be an argument that The Cribs have come full circle, harking back to ‘The Watch Trick’ from their 2004 self-titled album. As the first song on a début LP, it was a bold choice, which famously led one writer to give up on the album before the track had even finished. In an interview for the Payola compilation album in NME (23rd February, 2013), guitarist Ryan Jarman summarised that he had ‘met someone deep into our career who said he really loved the first album’ but ‘gave it a bad review’ at the time. Apparently, the aforementioned writer ‘never got past the first track…’, which seems a poor choice, in retrospect.

Both ‘The Watch Trick’ and ‘Goodbye’ are certainly juxtaposed with the rest of their respective albums. The latter song is steeped in Beach Boys-style harmonies and a delicate melody, very much dissimilar to what you’ve come to expect from The Cribs. However, make no mistake: this is a wonderful slice of pop perfection.

2. ‘Running into You’, written by Emma Burnell:

After a trying year for everyone, our boys dropped this absolute belter during mid-August, which was accompanied by an equally brilliant video. ‘Running into You’ is ‘classic’ Jarman material. If you delve into the lyrics, it seems to be a track based on reminiscence, including past lovers, partners and old haunts, with no possibility of escape: “find me on the balcony the new owner’s tore down”…

This is something I really felt a lot during the lockdown this year, which I’m sure everyone did, because let’s face it, what else was there to do?! But the upbeat tempo and the glorious guitar riff give it a massive uplift, and it is not a track to dwell over. Quite the opposite. It’s a Cribs anthem and the one I’m most looking forward to see live, whenever that may be…

Safe to say The Cribs have come back to save 2020, and mark my words, they’ve done it.

3. ‘Screaming in Suburbia’, written by Tommy Lee:

Highlighted by all three brothers as one of their personal favourites from the record, ‘Screaming in Suburbia’ was developed out of an old riff that the band stumbled upon when archiving some of their previous work. It’s not surprising, then, that the track immediately hits you with a trademark Cribs catchiness, something consistently sewn throughout their entire back catalogue. The hook goes one step further, though, with a real sense of uplifting nostalgia: Gary and Ryan trade-off vocals during each verse and chorus, respectively, on what is the only song from the album that they explicitly co-wrote.

One pre-release interview mentioned how Gary had overheard Ryan utter a reference to how they’re “still the same kids, screaming in suburbia” when reminiscing on the trio’s Wakefield upbringing. With that in mind, the latter part of the track could very well be my own favourite moment from the entire record, as Gary caps off the bridge with a poignant line: “if this life is a sad song, we’ve been singing it for too long”, all before Ryan bursts back into that irresistible sing-along chorus once more. Accompanied by some classic “ba da ba” backing vocals, I can’t help but smile-dance every time I hear it. This is The Cribs at their true best, in my book.

4. ‘Never Thought I’d Feel Again’, written by Donna McDonald:

Bang! Without sounding too clichéd I’m thrown into what I would call a trademark Jarman sound and, dare I say, ‘classic’ Cribs. A nod to the West Riding within twenty-five seconds and I am hooked already. Jangly guitar riffs, a captivating drum beat and vocals that echo and smoulder: ‘Never Thought I’d Feel Again’ is the perfect pop ditty. It’s everything we want from the brothers and more.

This song has the amazing ability to modify itself to how I am feeling at the time of listening. Carefree: you’ll see me dancing around the living room. Vulnerable: I’m clinging onto the line, “wanna feel the thing I never thought I’d feel again”, and those words feel more poignant than ever. It transports me back to when we were free, and although the situation we are currently in is just a fleeting moment in time, this song has been etched onto my heart forever. Soon enough we will all be feeling those things again. Wakefield Motown indeed.

5. ‘Deep Infatuation’, written by Michael Davies:

Sitting at an unenviable position on the record, in particular placed between two promo singles that already sound like Cribs ‘classics’, ‘Deep Infatuation’ holds its own as a sweet, Ryan-sung pop song.

A romantic story, it can be reduced to wondering whether such strong feelings could just be summed-up by cliché or, as the title suggests, a passing yet intense passion. The feeling remains that it is more, and the self-doubt within the lyrics show a vulnerable side, something to help explain away any heartache met should, “when we’re together, maybe you’ll feel it too?”, be unrequited.

The song gives off an infectious, ‘70s pop vibe that oozes melody, where the brothers’ strings and percussion meet to harmonise, producing somewhat of a hidden gem on the first half of the record. That piano buried deep in the mix comes courtesy of Ryan’s girlfriend Jen Turner, which serves to certify the romance of it all.

6. ‘I Don’t Know Who I Am’, written by Christopher Maclachlan:

The first half of Night Network concludes with ‘I Don’t Know Who I Am’, which features fellow musician, and previous collaborator, Lee Ranaldo on noise guitar and backing vocals. Emphasising the individual and collective traits held by Gary, Ross and Ryan Jarman, listeners heed their singing, lyrical, bass, drum and especially guitar qualities throughout the song. Recorded during 2019 at the Studio 606 home of Foo Fighters in Los Angeles, California and the Hoboken, New Jersey base for Sonic Youth, namely Echo Canyon West, the follow-up to an initial composition by The Cribs and Ranaldo, ‘Be Safe’, from 2007 release Men’s Needs, Women’s Needs, Whatever, represents a centrepiece on the album.

Although the longest song on the record at over five minutes, The Cribs issued ‘I Don’t Know Who I Am’ to the public after fan interest upon return in August 2020. Whereas singles ‘Running into You’ and ‘Never Thought I’d Feel Again’ received a radio airing first, the band gave this album track a video treatment, circulated via various online channels, to preview Night Network during September. Nick Scott, their creative and trusted art director, captures individual extracts of the Jarmans and Ranaldo, similarly referencing the 1962 Tony Richardson film The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner. Of note, Scott directs the visuals through actor John Palmer, as character The Runner, and a specific scene recreation between wife Nicola Jarman and husband drummer Ross.

Bassist Gary contrasts physical geography, including a valley, park bathroom and “town that is no more” with traditional communications media, also a theme across the November-released album, comprising a newspaper obituary and field recording, where the “telegraph pole reminds me of you”. While listeners find uncertainty at every turn, guitarist Ryan creates a soundscape for The Cribs, accompanied throughout by the percussive talents of Ross. Ranaldo contributes on a chorus full of impressive vocal range, with the prevailing melodrama, “descend a marble staircase, slap me in my face”, yielding to experimental guitar as a culmination to the song. ‘I Don’t Know Who I Am’ stands distinct: significant to Night Network, as an entry during their second decade, and within the overall back catalogue of the Jarman brothers.

7. ‘She’s My Style’, written by Hannah Erskine:

In an early listen of Night Network, I mused to my fellow Cribs nerds that it felt like an album of b-sides (stay with me here). The Cribs have always been brilliant at b-sides. Unconstrained by the expectations and structures of ‘proper’ albums, they felt like a little chance to be a bit experimental and a bit weird, all while having a bit of fun for themselves in the hope that we like it too. We see several sides of the brothers’ catalogue of influences, from the noisy to the classical, and from the pop to the weird.

Lyrically wry and self-deprecating, ‘She’s My Style’ introduces the second half of the record by neatly, and enjoyably, straddling the twin sides of the band, specifically the pop and the punk. It’s got an easy sing-along melody, underpinned by a massive fuckin’ riff and thumping drums. It feels like the key to unite the two groups of fans – those who want to sing and dance, and those who prefer to jump and shout. In the fullness of time, and vaccines, it’s surely destined to become a live favourite.

8. ‘Under the Bus Station Clock’, written by Michael Griffin:

Holland-Dozier-Holland meet Jarman-Jarman-Jarman: welcome to Wakefield Motown. ‘Under the Bus Station Clock’ has a more expansive sound than the other songs on the album. It’s a bright sounding track, and you really get a sense of being transported to the scene at the former Wakefield bus station, stood there waiting, “tearing hearts into my ticket”. Ryan’s sparkly guitar, coupled with Gary’s wistful vocals, create a real shimmering effect, all the while underpinned by Ross’s rhythmical groove. The drum fill before the chorus is brilliant too, and probably stands as my favourite part of the song.

You can hear fragments of other Cribs songs in this (‘I See Your Pictures Every Day’, anyone?). Overall, however, it doesn’t really sound like anything they’ve done before. Despite that, as soon as you hear it you know exactly who it is. New and refreshing, it still has that warm and fuzzy feeling of a Cribs melody, which runs through the whole of Night Network.

It’s like what the late John Peel said about The Fall: “they are always different, they are always the same”. Despite their well-documented legal challenges over the last couple of years, The Cribs will never lose the keys to the hit factory.

Credit: press photograph, taken by Steve Gullick.

9. ‘The Weather Speaks Your Name’, written by Elizabeth Andrew:

‘The Weather Speaks Your Name’ delivers a dose of the Jarmans’ flirtation with pure arena rock to an otherwise Americana-, Dusty Springfield- and Motown-influenced Night Network. A heavier and moodier cousin to the more introspective and dreamy ‘I Don’t Know Who I Am’, ‘The Weather Speaks Your Name’ sets its stall as the central anchor to the second half of the album, contrasting the ‘60s girl group echoes of ‘Under the Bus Station Clock’ and ‘Siren Sing-Along’ with a reverberating riff set against an expansive, thrumming bass line.

Thematically, the song speaks of yearning and lost chances realised and revisited with the changes in the seasons, themes touched upon by the band elsewhere in their back catalogue. Lyrics such as those which close the track, “I hear echoes wail around the English coast, but in the bleakness you see the romance most”, hint at a despondency tinged with hope and realism.

Sonically, the track is linked more closely to the In the Belly of the Brazen Bull-era than other albums by the band, but with the same grandiose, panoramic aural landscapes as those found on ‘Pink Snow’, ‘City of Bugs’ and ‘Women’s Needs’. Changes in tempo and texture that wend their way through the track, akin to those in the aforesaid ‘Pink Snow’ from the For All My Sisters LP and the In the Belly of the Brazen Bull Abbey Road Suite, position the song as a potential set closer of gigs yet to come.

10. ‘Siren Sing-Along’, written by Kirsty Walker:

Sat between a lamenting ‘The Weather Speaks Your Name’ and the grief-ridden ‘Earl and Duke’, you’d be forgiven for a sigh of relief at the lightness found on ‘Siren Sing-Along’. The guitar lead sounds like an old friend, and once you’ve been delivered through the rhythmic verse, you might start to spontaneously join in with the line that opens the chorus: “is this all for real or just a feel good drug?”

Melodically, it is only a couple of notes away from ‘I Only Want to be with You’ by Dusty Springfield, a song that the band have previously covered, underpinning the whole track with a nostalgic, ‘60s pop vibe. It’s one of those catchy little numbers that you find yourself nodding along to happily, until listening closely to the lyrics, subsequently picking up on loss and hopelessness, featuring imagery of gifted flowers gone brown. And that’s what a siren song is, after all; it’s deceptive, draws you in, and then dashes you on the rocks.

the cribs band 2020
Credit: press photograph, taken by Steve Gullick.

11. ‘Earl and Duke’, written by Laura and Joshua Lee:

At some point we all experience loss. It is an unfortunate part of life that we must endure, but at the same time it teaches us to deal with these emotions, discover what they mean, and manoeuvre us through to the next part of life. ‘Earl and Duke’ isn’t just a song, it’s much more than that: a soft, heartfelt story of tragic family loss for an individual who cares so much about the loved one in question. Regardless of the sadness that surrounds the heartfelt tragedy, the song informs us, “I’ll love you anyway, you are my boy and I’m your Duke.”

‘Earl and Duke’ is a beautiful and tender story, matched perfectly with idyllic guitar lilts that provide the backdrop to a tale of loss and acceptance. Although melancholic, this song helps us remember loved ones and look back on sharing fond memories. “First time out together, Northwest flags unfurled” sounds like reminiscing over a first-time memory that is held dearly. The soft melodies capture the emotional devastation so significantly, whether through sombre instrumental parts or, at the same time, jangly soothing guitars that provides the full journey of grief. The music gives a sense of needing to grieve and reflect, but also as a hope to move forward remembering the good times, before the sadness clouded over such memories.

A real tearjerker but an important story to tell, ‘Earl and Duke’ is a relatable song for listeners, helping to understand and accept personal tragedies in life: it teaches us to move forward towards the future in a healthier way.

12. ‘In the Neon Night’, written by Gianna de Tisi:

Closing the record with a change in tempo comes a swaggering, joyous romp of a song. I am immediately transported back to sticky-floored indie discos of the mid-noughties, in a sea of skinny black jeans pogoing up-and-down.

Storming through the merry knees-up vibe of what could easily become a live favourite is an evocative chant that exquisitely, and poetically, references the enduring signs of either drug abuse or self-harm. A little bit of darkness in among the bright neon shine:

“Your arms are full of scars / Like constellations in the stars / From the times you went too far…”

Reminiscent of tracks from their second album, The New Fellas, this already sounds like a ‘classic’ Cribs song, complete with a little Beatles-esque psychedelia and arcade laser gun sound effects thrown in for good measure. What’s not to love?!

Overall, ‘In the Neon Night’ is slightly bonkers but pure fun and full of attitude, standing in stark contrast to the sombre and melodic album opener, ‘Goodbye’. With Ryan screaming the final line, “I’ll say good riddance”, this feels like a cathartic conclusion to a record made during a challenging period for the band.

Night Network is out now via Sonic Blew under exclusive license to [PIAS]. Follow the ‘zine on Twitter.

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