When is a door not a door, man? When it’s a Jarman.
I first heard the Cribs in the autumn of 2005. Into our little student house moved a man with a haircut who had recently traded the bible and vegetarianism for the NME and doner kebabs. I had never got past the front cover of the NME with its doe-eyed skinny men in even skinnier jeans. Headlines spunked out by a distracted editor, each week heralding a New Saviour of RocknRoll.
Regardless, this new housemate came armed with a big stereo that filled out most of the limited space in his box room boudoir, and on that stereo he would spin The Cribs’ angry manifesto at a volume loud enough to shake the walls. The bile would drip out the speakers, the song would end and then the CD would be rewound and the song would begin again. And again and again, often 20 times in a row.
But that was a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, and now I’m in the Brudenell standing next to some hairy Viking who you can just tell is weighing up whether he has time to run and get another dark ale before show time. The crowd have had their fill of Nick Hodgson’s delicate entrees and are now slavering for the main course, and it’s up to The Cribs to pull out a rather than a Prize Turkey. The band have an unprecedented five-night residency at the Brudenell, a prospect that affords ample elbow room for . The audience know this. We don’t want the singles, man. We want the fois gras and filet mignon. We want the deep cuts, dammit. And five minutes to grab another beer, OK?
The Christmas lights twinkle on the Jarmans’ drum kit and amplifiers and out comes in what appears to be a teeny-tiny Early Learning Centre My First Leather Jacket. He’s singing Hands Up by Ottawan and encouraging the crowd, already plastered and throwing beer around, to join in. Brothers Gary and Ross spring out behind him and launch straight into Watch Trick, the opener from their debut album. They race straight to the other end of the catalogue for Different Angle and then it’s right back to their debut’s The Lights Went Out and then everything kicks off. Just like water remembers how to freeze, the crowd suddenly remember how to explode and from then on it’s sweaty manic craziness until we all lick our wounds and crawl clandestine back into the wet fart of a Leeds December.
We swing by the sublime I’m A Realist, an instruction manual on how to write pop-chops, and then motor on to new brute Rainbow Ridge. The Jarmans have definitely had In Utero on in the tour bus – that late Nirvana sound positively drips out of this one. A shirtless man in the thrashing crowd has already been carried off by security, too drunk to support his own weight.
Around this time Gary Jarman stops to say hello. “Alright, Leeds! It’s good to be back in the Brudenell, the best venue in the world….Did you see us in the Arena?” Lots of cheers in the audience and a bit of laughter. “Yeah, well like I say” he smirks “it’s good to be back in the Brudenell.”
Then we’re right back into it, more foamy pints flying, Gary jumping on the drum kit and Ryan pogoing up and down, down and up and then stabbing a foot at an arbitrary guitar pedal. Even the melodic We Share The Same Skies sounds a little ferocious tonight.
“Alright, Leeds, I’ve been working out, can you tell?” Ryan flexes his . No-one seems very impressed. Gary chips in “To be fair he has been on the Rockstar Diet for quite a few years now.” It looks like Ryan could be snapped in two by a strong wind. Someone give that man a hot meal.
We’re asked what we want to hear next, and after a lot of yelling it comes down to a toss-up between On A Hotel Wall and I’ve Tried Everything. With more applause for the latter a decision is reached. Democracy in action. Soon after this we get On The Floor, possibly the deepest of deep cuts to make the aficionados dribble.
Ryan Jarman stops here to offer context, explaining they had decided to play that song for a guy who helped them get gigs at the Brudenell when they first started 15 years ago. It was his favourite song off their first demo. “Back then the NME said we were part of the ‘New Rock Revolution’” quips Ryan in a dismissive tone, “probably cos we used to wear Converse shoes.”
“We only had them cos they were seven pounds in the army surplus though.” adds Gary.
“Yeah, and then The Strokes came along and now they’re 40 quid….but Julian’s alright though.”
And with that we’re into a rousing romp through Mirror Kissers, the Cribs’ kiss-off to trendy types around the world, and from here there is no time afforded to look back. All the big tunes fly by one after another. Be Safe’s transcendental chorus has the whole crowd doing their best to lift the roof off the building and Come On Be A No-One has Ryan Jarman menacingly snarling “Come on, Leeds. Come on, you fucks, come on and be a no-one.” Pop anthem Men’s Needs sees the audience singing the guitar riff and solo right back at the band, we’re teased with a lick or two from “something that might just be a new song” and then Pink Snow closes the show.
It’s been 12 long years since my friend and I were squeezed into that tiny room listening to Cribs records, and since then we’ve had 3 Olympic games, 3 unwanted Hobbit films, Dubya, Obama, Trump, bird flu, the Rise of China, Brexit, Recession, David Cameron, the Shard, ebola, Gangnam Style, ISIS, Black Lives Matter and we put a satellite on a god damn rubber duck shaped comet. My friend with the stereo is now happily married, and is teaching down in that there London. The Cribs’ contemporaries have gone to seed or been forgotten as one hit wonders. The Libertines are long dead. Julian Casablancas is doing electronica. Sadly, Scouting For Girls will not just give up the ghost, but reassuringly The Cribs have survived, pretty much the same and still going as strong as ever. They’re still making their own characteristic brand of guitar music and sounding unapologetically like, well, themselves. Roll on Tuesday.
THE LIGHTS WENT OUT
I’M A REALIST
DON’T YOU WANNA BE RELEVANT?
THINGS YOU SHOULD BE KNOWING
WE SHARE THE SAME SKIES
STICKS NOT TWIGS
CITY OF BUGS
I’VE TRIED EVERYTHING
WE CAN NO LONGER CHEAT YOU
MY LIFE FLASHED BEFORE MY EYES
ON THE FLOOR
COME ON, BE A NO-ONE
Jim writes for Leeds Living on contemporary music, bringing gigs alive for readers who couldn’t be there.