The Cribs - Men's Needs, Women's Needs, Whatever

David Segurola 08/06/2007

Rating: 4/5

“That were alriiight, not m'best one, but who cares?”

It's probably the Cribs' own fault that the bands' potential was not fulfilled by their first two LPs, 'The Cribs' and 'The New Fellas': the former was gloriously half-arsed, half-released lo-fi punk pop which darted under many people's radar, whilst the latter was rather too enjoyably inconsequential to be worthy of merit beyond the declaration, “Yay, it's so catchy!” It seems irrelevant that both albums are actually pretty good, because neither of them seemed to be the record the Cribs should be making.

No surprise, then, that 'Men's Needs, Women's Needs', Whatever is a continuation of their sound, characterised by big catchy choruses, dry wit and grim Northern pessimism. However, Alex Kapranos on production duties has evidently lured something actually pretty bloody good out of the Cribs: 'Men's Needs…' is typical Cribs and then some.

The Jarman twins, on joint vocals, are as blunt as ever (“There's not much to say for me/ But that's okay 'cos girls like mystery”), filling the album with nasal mantras and rounded spitballs of exasperation. Yet, unlike 'The New Fellas', 'Men's Needs…' doesn't rely on dumb oafishness alone, allowing the band's ambitions to explore deeper issues. “Be Safe”, as the album's centre-piece, is a pointedly downbeat 6-minute spoken word cameo from Sonic Youth's Lee Ranaldo: “These are the days when I hate the world, hate the rich, hate the happy, hate the complacent…the satisfied ones."

The track is a brutally livid, fantastically effective manifesto, transforming the album from an accomplished affair into to a fully realised evolution: the Cribs used to be half-comedy Northerners yelping aimless abuse at pretty much everybody - including the scenesters who, ironically, bought their album - but these new songs have a sense of self-deprecation about them which lends the music more than a jot of intelligence.

But, never fear: gobshite guitar pop is still in abundance here, from the pissed-off bombast of opener “Our Bovine Public”, through anthem-by-numbers single “Men's Needs” and down to “My Life Flashed Before My Eyes”. The Cribs are, as ever, highly proficient at captivating a dancefloor with heinously memorable melodies. So much so, at times 'Men's Needs…' sounds like the album the Strokes should have made (if they were from Yorkshire, weren't schmindie NYC fashionistas and hadn't had an expensive education) instead of that god-awful elevator music, First Impressions of Earth. Interpret that as you will.

It's difficult to dislike the Cribs. They may be regularly atonal, have really dirty hair and slightly on the derivative side, but they make up for it by being persistently frank in their approach to music. It's fantastic to hear this, as the record the band have threatened to make for a long time, being both lyrically and musically forthright whilst sounding accomplished and perfected. It's still unsubtle and obtuse, it's still shouting its mouth off, and who cares if it's about as refined as weeing in the shower? Men's Needs… deserves your attention.