The Cribs - Payola

A staggeringly good collection of songs.

Label: Wichita

Rating: 9

The Cribs have occupied a slightly awkward and singular position in the UK firmament since they first emerged in 2002. Characterised by devout principles, scabrous rage and, above everything else, an inherent and extremely special gift to make insanely addictive music that really means something, their following is strong. The catalogue they have amassed so far is considerable, a mini-history of 21st century UK indie rock. ‘Payola’ is a staggeringly good collection.

The songs here are extremely well known but have lost none of their power or ability to enthral. Early tracks like ‘Another Number’ and ‘You Were Always The One’ brim with youthful naivety. As the decade progressed, The Cribs found themselves curious outsiders in British indie’s mid-decade boom, spitting out brilliantly subversive caustic asides like ‘Hey Scenesters!’ and ‘Mirror Kissers’ with ease, all the while with hooks that other bands would die for. It is not an exaggeration to say that every inclusion here is a gem.

The band’s third album ‘Men’s Needs, Women’s Needs, Whatever’ is their commercial high watermark. ‘Men’s Needs’ and ‘I’m A Realist’ still sound thrilling, while the towering ‘Be Safe’ - featuring Lee Ranaldo - has grown in stature to become a contemporary classic.

The latter years represented here see The Cribs progressing significantly as musicians and writers, aided as they were for one album by Johnny Marr. Marr’s melodic skills aligned to the Jarmans’ punk-rock sensibilities made for sometimes-awkward companions but what the songs lacked in lo-fi thrash they made up for in tunefulness and depth. Perhaps of most interest is the inclusion of ‘Leather Jacket Love Song’, the never-before-heard last track recorded with Marr, back in 2010. It’s a wonderful mid-paced rocker with more than a hint of sadness.

Most recent album ‘In The Belly Of The Brazen Bull’ brought together all of the qualities that define the trio. Ambitious and emotionally fraught, it is by far the best Cribs album, with ‘Back To The Bolthole’ perhaps their best song. Ryan Jarman’s coruscating howl is impossibly chilling.

Listening to these songs in one sitting, you increasingly appreciate just how important The Cribs are. ‘Payola’ offers a compelling argument of the threesome as the most important and greatest UK band of the last ten years.