The Crimea - Tragedy Rocks

Bill Cummings 17/10/2005

Rating: 4/5

The Crimea's debut proper“Tragedy Rocks” is a short, sharp collection of eleven songs, some re-recorded and some seeing the light of day for the first time. Lovingly produced, this is an album of rare beauty, delicious bittersweet melodies sprinkled with psychedelic pixie dust dance with black humour and heartbreak. At times this is US-influenced lo-fi alt rock, at others its just glorious timeless classic alt pop with a sly twist.

There's the beguiling carnival ride loop of “Lottery Winners on Acid”, all dabbing Hammond organs, shimmering guitars, twisting melodies and some twitching tortured lyrics about obsessive love. (“If she gets a disease/ I get a disease” and “Everything she says I was thinking anyway”) All the while front man Davey MacMansus' voice quivers like a younger, less angst ridden Conor Oberst.

While the centre piece of the album is Peel favourite “Baby Boom” a quite brilliant hypnotic slacker groove, is slithered all over by Davey's delightful Eliott Smith-esque vocal in the verses, before the quite majestic strummed chorus that charts the unsparing evocation of male lust. (“You can call me Fred Flintstone/ Tarzan King of the Jungle/ I guess I was a little prehistoric/ pumpkin, at your place this afternoon”)

There's something so fresh and sparse about the arrangements here: tinkling pianos and sun drenched guitars don't weigh down the tunes: these ditties are about love, loss and heartbreak. Take for instance “Girl Just Died”: its joyous sun kissed melody is reminiscent of the work of the Shins, but listening to it is like biting into a chocolate only to find a nut: the black humour in the words often belie the sugar coated sounds. (“If you wanna see my happy side/You better tell me that my girl just died.”) Or the beauty through struggle loop of “Bad Vibrations.” There are musically darker moments too: “Opposite Ends” is a angsty distortion drenched stream of consciousness hand fight between good and evil in the rain, while final track “Someone's Crying” is a dark piano drenched Nick Cave-esque tale of self doubt, that just about pulls off the trick.

The melodies on “Tragedy Rocks” are timeless, yet twist and subvert the normal kind of pop that infests the commercial “charts.” It's a battle between good and evil, it's about feeling hope through tragedy, its sweet sounds mixed with the bitter words of experience. This is an economical album full of great tunes that reveal themselves as having messed up inner lives on repeated listens. Tragedy can indeed rock.