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The Cribs - The New Fellas

Been There, Done That, & Maybe I'll Do It Again - Released: Wichita Recordings, 8/23/05

Listening to "Hey Scenesters!", the first track off the The Cribs' sophomore album, is a lot like watching one of those movies that condemns violence, at the same time being really violent and making it look all glamorous and sexy. With lines like "Hey, hey scenesters, you lot are in trouble now", "You know your scene has a lot to answer for," and "Take drugs, don't eat, have contempt for those you meet," the album reeks of hipster knocks, all the while sounding, at least on the surface, like a Strokes knock-off record. The irony might have been amusing had the album come out two years ago, but the backlash has come and gone, and you're either still wearing your skinny white belt or you're not. Perhaps they're just looking to start a good old fashion hip-hop rivalry: Nas vs. Jay-Z, LL vs. Canibus, The Cribs vs…The Libertines?

Whatever the reason, The Cribs bring to mind the garage-revival, new wave, dancey rock of bands like Franz Ferdinand, Bloc Party, and Kaiser Chiefs. The three-piece is made up of a group of scruffy brothers (Ryan, Gary, and Ross Jarman) from Yorkshire England who started playing music together before any of them had reached their 10th birthday. While a handful of tracks never seem to cut loose of their obvious contemporary influences, <i>The New Fellas</i> has a lo-fi charm that emerges after repeated listens. I have to admit, at first I thought, "Here we go again…" and promptly put the disc back into my listening pile without evening ripping it to my iPod. But after keeping it in my car as my lone driving disc, I got past some of the more contrived tracks like the "Hey Scenesters!" or "I'm Alright Me", and discovered a middle third of an album that is as good as anything I've heard this year.

Songs like "Mirror Kisses, Hello? Oh…", and the title track "The New Fellas" have a great sloppy energy with catchy chants, interesting melodic twists, and surprising harmonies that are reminiscent of older British acts like The Kinks or The Clash. The heartbreak romp "It Was Only Love" breaks out a Donovan groove and successful humor with lines like, "But if I dress you like me then you'll still never be more than your bus fare to me."

The Cribs are at their best when the songs are less produced and focused away from the "scene" they willingly or unwillingly have fallen into. While sometimes spotty, <i>The New Fellas</i> proves The Cribs are a terrific band in the making.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars