The Cribs are back with a bang on their eighth studio album.
Although hailing from the fiercely independent nearby city of Wakefield, The Cribs know that whilst the distance between Leeds’ now defunct Cockpit venue and its arena might only be a couple of miles in real life, in practical terms for most bands it might as well be measured in light years.
The Jarmans, however, can look back on making that journey, from the time of their first gigs spent in the dingy subterranean environs beneath a railway arch, to headlining somewhere many times the size in 2017 (and still turning up in a van).
If that naturally marked something of a career apex and full stop, what happened afterwards was the opposite as legal wrangles following a split with their management company effectively left The Cribs under an embargo which nearly caused them to stop working altogether.
Enter the world’s nicest frontman Dave Grohl, who agreed to let the trio use his studio to make fresh music, and following a Christmas family get together during which the brothers wrote songs to record we now have Night Network, a rocket ship with its nose pointing straight out of the trauma, one that emphatically yells: ‘We’re back’.
First off, as if it could be anything else, this is an archetypal Cribs record, full of their familiar punk-pop and assorted rifferola. Opener Goodbye – a conscious waving off of all the last three years’ detritus – sounds as carefree as that reflex suggests, its innocent chords and Beach Boys harmonies delivered with the relish you’d expect of a group regaining lost time, ground and energy.
The same classic, carefree aesthetic applies to Running Into You, written supposedly in half-an-hour and all the better for the immediacy, a set-up-and-play-anywhere approach which has stood the band in glorious, DIY-channelling stead ever since they first began to perform and write.
The same classic carefree aesthetic applies to pretty much everything else too. This is a band who never wanted to be away – and on the likes of Under The Bus Station Clock, I Don’t Know Who I Am and Never Thought I’d Feel Again one that sounds deliriously happy to be back.
Long time Cribs lovers may well be holding a palm up here, inquiring after the darker tones which have periodically surfaced in their work over the years. Whilst there are times when they appear to be a little less animated – as on Deep Infatuation’s longing indie rock or the shoegaze-fixated The Weather Speaks Your Name – the hard chopping closer In The Neon Night sounds much more arena made than change-in-the-sink, a jubilant finale which puts the barren period well behind them.
It’s not far between the toilet circuit and the green room, but it seems much further when you’re going nowhere. The Cribs are back – and brilliantly, there’s not a goddamn thing anyone can do about that.