The Cribs In the Belly of the Brazen Bull

The Cribs In the Belly of the Brazen Bull
After taking a battering from critics early in their career, the Cribs' decision (dumb luck?) to nab former Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr for their fourth album saw them finally get over their inability to balance barnstorming singles with the nuanced pace of a full album. But with Marr out for their fifth record, the brothers Jarman find themselves at a fork in the road: continue the path they blazed on Ignore the Ignorant or return the sloppy, Libertines-esque rock of their early records. Unfortunately they chose to do both, in the process come up with an album that's just kind of okay. Their choice of studio collaborators ― lo-fi maestro Steve Albini (who actually handled only one track) and psychedelic baroque-pop master Dave Fridmann ― is telling of their inability to pick a path. They continue to lean on bass, guitar and drums with few overdubs, but chase the sonic diversity Marr's participation afforded them. From a band we once depended on to produce stick-in-your-head singles like "Men's Needs" and "Hey Scenesters," the lack of such a track here is a major disappointment. It's by no means a disaster, but In the Belly of the Brazen Bull feels like a step back from a group on the cusp of producing something great. (Wichita)