The Crookes - Chasing After Ghosts

The Crookes - Chasing After Ghosts

Sometimes you need an album that makes you press the Pause button on life.


‘You and I were fated / to be so damn blue.’ So goes the song ‘Chorus of Fools’ in the debut album from the Crookes, ‘Chasing After Ghosts’. For the melancholic guitar rock in their ‘Dreams of Another Day’ EP released in September 2010, lazy journalists pegged the band as Smiths traditionalists, and that lyric would add more fuel to the fire. But if you are old enough to recall (or perhaps we should say intelligent enough to appreciate the brilliance of the Smiths), being compared to the legendary Manchester group is not an insult. Throughout ‘Chasing After Ghosts’, the young Sheffield quartet shows their penchant for jangly guitars and concern for the downhearted, set to a enjoyable soundtrack celebrating the beauty of the shadows.

‘Bloodshot Days’ is the older, more flighty part two to the band’s breakout hit ‘Backstreet Lovers’. This time, the band smartly chose more obvious lyrics, making it a clear choice for a single. It’s even got doo wop ‘bop bop bop woos’, as if in remembrance of the 1950’s. It’s a simple song but a much needed breath of fresh air in these days of overproduced, synthesised music. If you’re in need of an album to set the mood with a sweetie, ‘Chasing After Ghosts’ is probably the most heartbreakingly romantic album released in 2011 so far. ‘The Crookes Laundry Murder, 1922’, named for the real-life Sheffield murder of a Chinese shop owner, is an expertly written slow dance number if there ever was one. Framed by wonderful harmonies and wistful guitar, you can hear echoes of Morrissey and Marr in the loneliness. The soul-searching yearning of ‘City Of Lights’ is of a similar vein.

Oddly, the band chose album opener ‘Godless Girl’ as their first single from the album. With joyful guitar and jaunty melody, the Crookes sound as if Southern brothers to Sunderland’s Frankie & The Heartstrings. But some lyrics are off-putting and the comparison to the Smiths makes more sense now: how does ‘take off threads by the tomb of her bed’ grab you? Something else that might irk: it’s not just the chorus that repeats, so does the verse. You can look at this as either excellent word economy or lack of ingenuity. ‘Backstreet Lovers’ has a similar structure, but it was easier to overlook this in the face of a catchier melody.

An interesting step away from the North is explored in ‘By The Seine’. Despite the banging guitar intro, the song chronicles a downtrodden, starving artist who too still finds splendour in the darkness. All this talk of people down on their luck would break lesser listeners, but the same could be said for people who can’t comprehend the Smiths. Despite their youth and relative lack of life experience, the Crookes have managed to write an album that distills the Northern rain into 11 tracks. Sometimes you need an album that makes you press the Pause button on life, to appreciate what has come before, in simpler terms. ‘Chasing After Ghosts’ is that kind of album.