The Cribs ‘For All My Sisters’ – Review

1 May

They may be thirteen years in to their album career now, but in a way The Cribs have been acting like a band in their second decade since the release of ‘The New Fellas‘ in 2005. Workmanlike and dependable, but never remarkable, their catalogue is full of good albums but short on great ones. ‘The New Fellas’ felt like their best shot at the big time, and it remains their finest album. Ever since they’ve been content to be there or there abouts, but they’ve never struck me as being particularly ambitious. Which is why ‘For All My Sisters’ feels like a make or break moment. You feel that if they have it in them to make a classic record, this may be their last chance. Afterall, they’ve just signed to Sony records, making this their first release on a major label. They wont get that kind of chance again if this doesn’t make the grade.

For the first time in a long time the band seem hungry for success. They are experienced enough to know their way around a recording studio, and they know what works for them and what doesn’t, but they are young enough to give these songs enthusiasm and energy. They have made noises about this being their ‘pop album’, and they clearly view it as their big chance to make some kind of dent on the mainstream. They’ve even hired Ric Ocasek to produce the record – a pop/rock guru who achieved crossover status with Both The Cars and Weezer. And so as if it wasn’t clear enough, The Cribs want this to be their ‘blue album.’

On those grand terms ‘For All My Sisters’ is a failure. It’s too cynical and jaded to scan as true pop, and not biting enough to compete with their better, earlier material. As a result ‘For All My Sisters’ gets lost somewhere in the fog and ultimately feels disappointingly confused. The songs are bright, energetic and hooky but just a little bit too polished and safe. Perversely, the really brave thing to do would have been to just go for it and make an actual pop record, using a modern producer and recording techniques, rather than just make a half-hearted effort like this, which probably isn’t going to appeal too much to anyone.

They recently said they haven’t listened to the radio in years and it shows; they may class ‘For All My Sisters’ as “pop” but nobody who has even a passing interest in modern music will identify it as that. With our expectations readjusted, we can instead see it as a well meaning, modest, old-fashioned power-pop record. The Cribs trace the line back to New York Dolls, The Replacements, Weezer and Foo Fighters. Album opener ‘Finally Free’ is the best song on here; the whole point of ‘For All My Sisters’ was to bring melodies and hooks to the fore, and ‘Finally Free’ has the best melody and hooks. With no production gimmicks to hide behind, and with an emphasis on simplicity and clarity, the record lives or dies on the strength of the song writing, which is consistently good but rarely (if ever) outstanding. The better songs, ‘A Different Angle’, ‘Summer of Chances’, ‘Ivory Hand’ feel like retreads of earlier songs, while the weaker songs amble along without causing either much pleasure of offence.

You’re left with the feeling that The Cribs best songs are behind them. There are genuine pop/rock classics in their back catalogue, and they featured on last years ‘Payola’ compilation – a record that suggested, and that ‘For All My Sisters confirms’, that The Cribs are a singles band, albeit one whose singles don’t really bother the charts. ‘Man’s Needs’, ‘Cheat on Me’, ‘Mirror Kisses’, ‘Hey Scenesters’, ‘Leather Jacket Love Songs’ – there they found crossover material without trying anywhere near as hard as they do here. Maybe that’s a lesson to be learnt.

5.5/10

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