Replete with unparalleled displays of riff-age. Riddled with lyrical honesty. An uncompromising garage-punk production.
Each of The Cribs’ releases has honed these and other facets with increasing skill and, as preceding albums have progressively done, Night Network embellishes The Cribs’ sound with the brothers’ continuously developing songwriting and influences, while still retaining that indelible and unrivalled Cribs elixir.
The latest record distils the band’s own styles and musical distinctions, their personal loves and new sonic etchings, with precision.
Although recorded in the aftermath, and perhaps fuelled by the catharsis of what Gary Jarman calls a “legal morass”, Night Network is joyous and surges exploratively. That it was recorded in Dave Grohl’s LA studios with the Jarmans as producers for the first time, and a recording process spanning just two weeks, is perhaps part of the album’s refreshing sense of autonomy and astonishing catharsis. The album simultaneously balances these sensations and those of youth and vivacity with the refusal to dwell on the past’s woes.
There is perhaps no finer example of this sense than opener Goodbye, which drummer Ross describes as their “…way of saying ‘goodbye’ to that period of our lives. Let’s move on,”. The track has a graceful, gilded beauty; exemplified by the profoundly emphatic farewell in “… birds fly untethered”. Queen-evoking harmonies build to a chiming, instrumental section, in which Ross’s consistently powerful drumming rains, and the guitar renders one paralytic with riff ecstasy even on the thousandth listen; undoubtedly among Ryan Jarman’s greatest six-string displays, possibly the best.
Though abundantly stocked with classically Cribs, endlessly gratifying riffs, Screaming in Suburbia and She’s My Style are among their most galvanising. The latter is an otherworldly hybrid of Shellac and early Cribs; the former a resolute assurance that Night Network pays no heed to the prior internal miasma, instead an impassioned ode to the brothers’ enduring youth (an impression the album very much exudes), the euphoric cruise of the “ba-ba-ba-ba” outro a shot of optimism recalling the wonderfully pop harmonies of their earliest records.
Also prominent on the aforementioned track is a magnetic piano part, an undulating and melodic canter, appearing similarly on In the Neon Night and Deep Infatuation. Coming to the fore here frequently, and while evoking the keys in 2012’s Chi-Town, this feels like an entirely new component of The Cribs’ sound, and very much an integral part of the album’s life.
The 70’s pop inflections of Deep Infatuation reflect another side to the album, evincing the brothers’ love for the kind of melodic pop they love. Further welcome nuances are present in Ryan Jarman’s purer croon, especially in the verses of this phenomenal track. A vocal style rarely seen from the guitarist, this also recalls the stylings of side project Exclamation Pony. Nonetheless, the cleaner, saccharine vocals work equally marvellously in the innocent and furtive setting of Deep Infatuation. The track also gathers irresistible momentum with the innovatively elasticated bass playing from Gary Jarman.
Generating a utopian expanse of musicality, and quite unlike anything else they have previously crafted whilst still gleaming with the trio’s recognisable chemistry, The Weather Speaks Your Name shows them at their most personal and powerful. It has sparse and affecting sparks of guitar; devastating drum attacks crashing off rumbling, characterful bass. The lyrical content, like the instrumentation, holds an ethereal quality, intangible yet hitting with a universal poignancy. Although this and Earl and Duke emit this poignancy, it is done in an ultimately uplifting way; a naturally Cribs-seeming way which moulds the gloom into intensely higher spirits.
I Don’t Know Who I Am’s personal purge dealt with the twins’ “disconnect with their biological paternal lineage”, and Earl and Duke siphons a similarly personal, emotive, familial narrative; reaching the clawing summit presented by “…you are my boy and I’m your duke”. Primal but staggeringly moving instrumentation, akin to Shoot the Poets, adorns the track’s message, one of a wholly different yet haunting tone to previous tracks like it.
As a massively fulfilling cessation of the record, the final track expunges the past ills of The Cribs’ enforced hiatus spectacularly. With Goodbye’s euphoric gush of harmonies unshackling the band, the last track’s gratuitous riffage grinds the shackles into fine powder. While contrary to Goodbye, the raucous In the Neon Night is a complimentary sister to the opening track, as a more seething smack of retribution, through the screeching, Year of Hate yowl of “So I’ll say good riddance, yeah!”.
Wakefield’s finest, still screaming in suburbia, deliver ad infinitum on their latest with a dexterously refined summation of their discography’s sharpest features, aligning with superb, refreshing nuances. While many fans await next year to witness the band live again, Night Network, quite possibly their greatest yet, will easily tide them over until then.