And the Boys Looked at Johnny


The Cribs: Ignore the Ignorant (Wichita)

Some guys date younger girls, some buy a motorbike or a flash car, others re-invest in the record collections of their youth; some do most or all of the above. Johnny Marr's mid-life symptoms have manifested themselves by his joining forces with a ropey indie band. The Cribs are the Jonas Brother for the student hordes. Shouty, frantic, and currently popular, what they lack in talent they disguise with energy. With Marr to the fore there is a certain Smiths vibe to the far from amazing proceedings, which have had elements of the British music press exhibiting a nostalgia-fueled lack of judgment, in the absence of the severed alliance being repaired. A song such as "Hari Kari Blues" needs Morrissey's verve and bravado, and perfectly reveals the emptiness at the heart of the proceedings. Think the Manic Street Preachers without the tunes, the Psychedelic Furs devoid of Richard Butler's flair. The whole affair is akin to wanking on speed; although the work is being done, the desired outcome and the promise is never fulfilled. The album is available in a variety of formats; the most lavish, and perversely quaint, is the Roses CD and DVD box. Available only in Lancashire and Yorkshire in the U.K., and Portland in the U.S., this is a folly construed from the individual places of domicile of the various Cribs, Marr now residing in Oregon. This rather regionalist gesture belies a regionalist mentality, and creates an unfortunate hierarchy of geographic favoritism among their fans. It also reminds the purchaser that the more grand the package, the more the contents have to hide. Proceedings kick into life with the unfortunately monikered "We Were Aborted," a mediocre rant that flounders under Marr's bursts of divine guitar gilding. At times he sounds like a man trying to decorate a loaf into a fabulous wedding cake. The Cribs are ploddy, stodgy and worse still, deeply earnest, and no amount of handfuls of sparkling dust will polish their dullness into a blinding sheen. It amounts to the surrealism of Eric Clapton joining Busted. A reasonable vocalist could have elevated things, but the atonal growl that cloaks and entombs the songs would disgrace even the most tired and redundant heavy metal combo. "Save Your Secrets" is a particular culprit of this aural malpractice, and although "Nothing" initially appears to have a semblance of wit, Jarman's "I'm having a difficult shit" vocals destroy that faint flicker of hope. "Victim of Mass Production" is a Smiths song shorn of the inspired maladies of Moz, and "Stick to Your Guns" never rises above karaoke Lou Reed. These songs lack variety and spice. Tight knots of energy resulting in an occasionally vibrant but pointless mess, best revealed in the initially promising "City of Bugs," a meandering Joy Division-style lament that collides with an amazing flash of eloquence, but one that sounds sadly like it belongs in another tune. Sometimes a great collection of moments results from unlikely combinations. Morrissey's archly whimsical effusions were a perfect force and foil for Marr's youthful laddishness and talent. It was a perfect creative marriage of a man with vision to another with vitality and verve. Marr remains a guitarist of enviable gifts, but his splatter gun, post-Smiths career indicates a poignant lack of direction. Perhaps the Cribs album is a project borne out of their understandable admiration for him, and his friendship for them, but it serves both poorly. Their songs are not embellished by his craftsmanship, they sound fussed over, his talent merely illustrating their limitations. If you "Ignore the Ignorant," they simply remain devoid of any hope of redemption. The Cribs seem destined to be the Shed Seven of their generation, whilst Marr remains a guitarist who cannot find an appropriate home. This album is another cul-de-sac, proof positive that unerring talent does not provide a man with unerring good taste.