Vor etwas mehr als 12 Monaten wurde der Ausstieg von Johnny Marr (Ex-The Smiths) bei The Cribs offiziell bekannt gegeben. Damit besteht das Trio, wie zu seinen Anfangstagen, wieder aus den Zwillingen Gary und Ryan Jarman, sowie deren jüngeren Bruder Ross.
Much of this album – 14-songs long, with the closing four strung together in the form of an ambitious suite – makes use of large, lung-busting choruses (Come On, Be a No-One does this especially earwormishly). Its production is also lavish and painstaking: save for Chi-Town, a wistful relationship reminiscence recorded by Steve Albini, The Cribs made ample use of indie über-producer David Fridmann’s Tarbox Road studio and the legendary Abbey Road. One of Fridmann’s highest profile jobs, Weezer’s uneasy second album curveball Pinkerton, is a useful point of comparison for In the Belly…’s contradictory outlook. Tunes are plentiful, but competing with angularity and dissonance to establish a prevailing mood.
Back to the Bolthole might be the heaviest Cribs song to date, wailing guitar overload that would get an approving nod from J Mascis. It’s followed by the album’s quietest moment, I Should Have Helped – an intimate tribute to 90s American lo-fi that would have you questioning the running order, if you thought this trio of Yorkshire-raised brothers didn’t revel in this kind of mildly confounding behaviour. As for the closing suite mentioned earlier, it begins with Stalagmites, whose Pavement-ish guitar squalls are as spiky as their title implies; then we move through harmony-soaked romantic psychedelia and finish on Arena Rock Encore with Full Cast. As much as that title might convey gentle self-mockery, it’s attached to arguably the band’s most bombastic few minutes in their decade-long career. Moreover, they play it like it was their natural calling.
Fortunately, the Cribs write better hooks than C-level revivalists like Tribes, and if guitar-based music is still your source of shameless pop, you'll probably enjoy In the Belly more than most records that actually aspire for art. Plus, the titles! They thought of everything! "Come on, Be a No-One" isn't much of a song so much as two and a half minutes of killing time between a ridiculous chorus confidently flopping itself down at the altar of MTV; it hardly matters that the verses don't really go anywhere since you could drag a beached whale with that hook. "Jaded Youth" similarly offers a pitch-perfect slacker sentiment ("If I went back to school?/ Would I feel cool?") within an insistent melody perfect for the drive-time commute after half-assing it at the office. Likewise, the highly unbalanced dynamics of "Uptight" and "Anna" give Jarman the necessary boost to just miss the big high note that every chorus inevitably leads to. None of it's new, but how many consistently good songs have to be strung together before you entertain the idea that a record might actually be great?