The Cribs at the Middle East Downstairs on May 4

A Review of The Cribs at the Middle East Downstairs on May 4, 2007

, Contributing Writer

The Cribs make promising music. In an era where even punk has been co-opted and homogenized, any music that speaks its mind and wins the hearts of a hungry, angry, jaded public is something to be celebrated. Their upcoming album, Men’s Needs, Women’s Needs, Whatever, is already being touted in the British music press as the latest “Next Great Album.” At the Middle East on Friday night, the band proved that thought might not be too far from the truth.

Music journalists from across the pond enjoy falling all over themselves when bands that aren’t nearly as great as The Cribs come along (Libertines, I’m looking at you), ready and willing to make noise in America. But their excitement this time is no doubt heightened by the fact that The Cribs could be the next breath of fresh air into the increasingly stale musical landscape of pop/punk. It also doesn’t hurt that Alex Kapranos, of Franz Ferdinand fame, produced Men’s Needs. Real potential is oozing from The Cribs.

The brothers Jarman are an impressive power trio, working off each other in concert like the Gallaghers wish they could. These Yorkshire lads incorporate elements of punk, rock, mod and pub-style singalongs into their sound, and gave an excellent and unapologetically shouty performance at the Middle East on Friday night.

As a live act, The Cribs are known for quickly stirring up a “drink and a fight” atmosphere at their concerts. Friday night’s show was only slightly subdued (none of the usual stage-dives); no doubt a consequence of the audience being subjected to three opening bands. There was also a rumor that drummer Ross was ill, but if that was true it was barely detectable. He exhibited drumming antics worthy of Keith Moon, and his brothers kept their own frantic pace throughout the show. Best of all, their energy and passion never abated and their dynamic performance sustained itself through mutual contempt for everyone and everything but their music.

The wonderfully snide “Mirror Kissers” set the tone for the evening as the band blasted their characteristic disdain for every hipsters that adore them: “You\\\’ve got a lot to say/but don\\\’t mention/The mirror kissing ways of the hipster type…” It must have felt hot under those Fred Perry jackets.

The sonic “V” signs kept on, and the band barely broke from their violent strumming, jumping and boozing. Unintelligible Yorkshire accents aside, (“Thank yer very mooch, Boston!”) many in the audience mouthed along to the familiar UK singles: the floor-stomping “Martell” – which was nicely sandwiched between the eponymous new tracks, “Men’s Needs” and “Women’s Needs” – and the poppy “Hey Scenesters”. They mixed in songs from all points in their brief career. They bulldozed through 16 of them before the night was over – and climaxed with a three-song finale that culminated with the ominous “The Wrong Way to Be”.

The Cribs crammed as much passion into their performance Friday night as they do into the three-minute pop song. The brothers Jarman obviously hold basic rock ethics in high regard: play your heart out, mean what you play and above all else, have fun while you’re doing it. In the true DIY spirit of rock, there was no flashy intro and no encore, only overturned mic stands, empty bottles of Stella, and wailing feedback as they left the stage. A proper rock show indeed.

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