Family band the Cribs—led by twin brothers Ryan (guitar/vocals) and Gary (bass/vocals) Jarman, and rounded out by younger brother Ross (drums)—have been making a racket for 15 years at this point, even recruiting Johnny Marr (yes, that Johnny Marr) as a second guitarist for a few years. (He bounced after 2009’s Ignore The Ignorant.) They outlasted a number of U.K. buzz bands and turned their noisy garage rock into a career. Not bad for three lads from Wakefield.
Yet their catalog has been frustratingly inconsistent throughout their career, with the obvious high point Men’s Needs, Women’s Needs, Whatever being 10 years removed at this point. With each passing album, the trio’s sound has grown increasingly stagnant and hook-free, frustrating given the promise of their early work and the pristine quality of Men’s Needs.
24-7 Rock Star Shit, the trio’s seventh album, tries to right the ship a bit, thanks to an intriguing backstory: The album’s genesis dates back to 2011, when the Jarmans recorded four songs over two days with Steve Albini at Electrical Audio in Chicago, potentially for inclusion on 2012’s In The Belly Of The Brazen Bull. Instead, they were held back, and five years later, the band reconvened with Albini and knocked out six more songs in three days.
The result is like most Steve Albini-recorded albums, from Surfer Rosa to In Utero to Attack On Memory: loud, angry, booming and raw, sounding more like first takes than anything even remotely considered “studio polished.” Press materials for 24-7 make no effort to identify which songs are from 2011 and which are from 2016, and honestly, Albini’s recording techniques are so consistent that trying to guess which is which would be impossible, as it sounds seamless. The problem is that if you don’t have the hooks to back it up, Albini’s skills won’t save you.
The Cribs still do have hooks, however. They might not be as plentiful as they were a decade prior, but 24-7 contains some real gems. “In Your Palace” is a dirt-pop jam, “Partisan” is a loose, swaggering rocker, “Rainbow Ridge” sounds like the Cribs of old and “Year Of Hate” has more in common with turn-of-the-century post-hardcore band Small Brown Bike than with anything coming out of the U.K. rock scene in the past 15 years.
24-7 falters when it tries anything except balls-to-the-wall, though. “Sticks Not Twigs” is a quick, acoustic guitar-laden track that doesn’t do much (except have high harmonies eerily reminiscent of Cursive vocalist Tim Kasher), and “Dead At The Wheel” is primarily piano, synth and drum machine, and is better left unheard. The remaining songs sort of blend together into a mix of fuzz bass and overdriven guitar tones, with the Jarman brothers’ slurred vocals rarely doing much in the way of emoting.
According to press materials, 24-7 Rock Star Shit was planned as the yang to For All My Sisters’ pop-heavy yin. Perhaps the Cribs would have been better off harvesting the best of both batches of songs for one well-rounded album.