What do you do when your indieness is in danger of affecting your ability to cross over successfully into the mainstream? What do you do when your famously rough sound is in need of a polish up? What do you do when you’re running out of ideas for the guitar-bass-drums combo?

Well, if you’re the Cribs, you sign up Johnny Marr. Reams of words have been written about the former Smiths guitarist joining the band, with the consensus seeming to be that he must be suffering a midlife-crisis to want to join the Wakefield punksters, and that his presence has stunted the band’s DIY ethics.

The band are of course not averse to bringing in surprising fresh blood – Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand produced their last record, Men’s Needs, Women’s Needs, Whatever – but the inclusion of Marr as a full-time member has raised eyebrows across the world of indie.

But if you look past the obvious and peer deep into the depths of Ignore The Ignorant, you find that it’s a change that is for the most part, a very good thing for all parties.

Despite their dominance in their field, the band’s sound was growing tired, and they were due taking a risk. Marr’s presence has a steadying effect on them, with crashing punk-rock evolving into melodic indie tunage throughout the record.

Lead single Cheat On Me is probably the best indication of the new direction, a gigantic chorus, backed by chirpy, sharp guitar from Marr. Marr’s lines and ideas stand out all too clearly, with Ryan’s guitar simply keeping time, rather than providing the angled riffs of the first three albums. The development gives the singer the chance to actually sing, and it comes as a surprise how melodic his voice is when he puts his mind to it. We’ve grown used to Ryan’s vocals being delivered in yelps or screams or shouts or screeches, whereas on Ignore The Ignorant, we hear him caress his words out much more carefully.

It’s not all great though. The album fades terribly; with a handful of dire, dull ballads clouding what was previously shaping up to be one of the best British records of the year. Fortunately, the sheer brilliance of the first half of the album more than makes up for its later failures. We Were Aborted rhymes “masturbation” with “fellation” (amazing), City Of Bugs goes all epic and Dovesish (amazing) and Hari Kari is the band at their best (yep, amazing).

The danger was that this new found maturity would dim the band’s vitality, that decamping to LA to record the album with Nick Launey would render them impotent and unimportant. But in moving away from the bedroom project, lo-fi sound, the brothers have carved themselves out a new opening, a new position in the higher echelons of modern British rock music. At the peak of their powers, the Cribs are exactly the type of band that inspire kids to pick up guitars and form their own bands. And if the youngsters learn from the Cribs’ liberal, punk stylings too, then all the better.

Ignore The Ignorant opens doors for the Cribs. No longer will they be pigeonholed as part-timers, relying on tabloid exploits such as Ryan’s back injury at the NME Awards, to garner media attention. It might not be a record that will be fondly remembered for years to come compared to its predecessors, but it will be thought of as the first in a long line of albums made by the Cribs/Marr partnership, a pairing that looks like becoming ever more fruitful as the foursome grow together as a band.

This review was written for TMM.

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